Reasons for friends ‘The Station Agent’ analyzes loneliness, mortality, trains

For those who have been an outsider, or lived on the edge, or wondered if they are completely on their own in life will likely relate with the story of Hoboken resident Finbar McBride, a train lover at the center of The Station Agent. Finbar, a private man with dwarfism, makes it known during the early parts of his journey in the movie he wants to be left alone, especially when his friend dies and leaves him an abandoned train depot. But when he takes up residence in the broken-down depot in rural New Jersey, instead of total isolation, he discovers something entirely unexpected – a need for connection and knack for true friendship.

Written and directed by New Providence native Tom McCarthy, the movie premiered in New York City in October. It won three awards at the Sundance Film Festival. It was filmed two years ago in Rockaway Township, Dover and other Morris County locations, and Hoboken.

Peter Dinklage stars as Finbar McBride, who can work up far more passion for trains than people. He arrives in town a man who does not want to be bothered. But his life unwittingly intersects with the tracks of two others: a grieving painter played by Patricia Clarkson, who nearly runs him over, and a lonely, fast-talking hot dog vendor played by Bobby Cannavale. In spite of himself, and entirely by surprise, Finbar becomes swept up in their lives, and even in romance with the town’s sexually provocative librarian played by Michelle Williams. Eventually Finbar reinvents himself to become the catalytic center of a community.

Finbar is the embodiment of loneliness in Station Agent. The pair he meets finds each other and the comfort of friendship through the strong desire by Finbar to be left alone. His non-threatening physique forces everyone to take notice, and results in him emotionally breaking down at the local pub. Yet, the audience is able to realize the importance of friendship and forgiveness. We discover the frailties of relationships and the importance of friends.

While this is the first movie McCarthy has written and directed, he acted on Broadway and was featured in several TV shows like Boston Public, The Practice, Ally McBeal, and Spin City.

“The first draft took six weeks. I really kind of cranked it out but then I developed it over two years, polishing it,” McCarthy said.

Distributed by Miramax, whose lame Project Greenlight on HBO failed to produce a hit last year with Battle of Shaker Heights. The mega-distributor decided to make up for its mistakes and come out strong in McCarthy’s tour de force, released in 2003.

“This has been completely consuming. Thank God that Miramax bought the movie. It has been an amazing experience,” he said.

The hour and half low-budget movie takes a look at the life of Finbar, who is trying to live on his own terms. Looking to be left alone, he takes up residence in the old depot. But much like the station agents that occupied small town debots before him, he finds himself reluctantly becoming enmeshed in the lives of his neighbors, especially Olivia (Clarkson), a 40-year-old artist struggling with the break up of her marriage, and Joe (Cannavale), a 30-year-old Cuban with a talent for cooking and an insatiable hunger for conversation, whether anyone wants to talk to him or not.

Some of the film was shot in Hoboken, and Dinklage’s intense role as an introverted dwarf addicted to trains who is on the journey of self-awareness, has earned him awards. The film’s major symbol, the regulated trains, culminates in the three characters walking on the tracks.

Station was the darling of last year’s Sundance Film Festival, and critics have hailed it as one of the year’s best flicks. Like other indie standouts like Clerks, the Blair Witch Project and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Station Agent may soon receive national acclaim.

The film was produced by the trio of Robert May, Mary Jane Skalski, and Kathryn Tucker. It’s rated R for language and some drug content. For information on the film visit


© 2000, Newspaper Media Group