I was traveling to New Jersey this week, and I decided to take a detour to visit the site locations for “The Station Agent”. The film starred Peter Dinklage, known for his role as Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones, as Finbar McBride, a dwarf who keeps to himself. The film also starred Patricia Clarkson as Olivia Harris, a grieving artist and mother, and Bobby Cannavale as Joe Aramis, a Cuban who operates his father’s food truck “Gorgeous Frank’s Hotdog Emporium”.
Finn inherits an abandoned railroad station in Newfoundland, NJ from his friend. Eager to get away from the jokes and stares in Hoboken, he sets out for the station. Suitcase in hand, he follows the rails of the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railroad. It’s quite a distance, and Finn arrives late in the day, soaked from the rain. The station is quite spartan, with only a desk, a couch Finn sleeps on, a bathtub, and some railroad memorabilia. The station has no electricity or running water.
The next morning, Finn meets Joe, who is surprised at Finn’s appearance at first. Finn gets a coffee as Joe tries to chat him up, wanting to know if Finn lives nearby, which of course he does. Joe is distracted by two local characters, who yell comments after Finn as he walks away, with Joe telling them to shut up.
Finn walks into town to the local convenience store when he meets Olivia along the road. She is distracted and nearly runs over Finn, and then does it again when she spills her coffee on the way back. She offers Finn a ride back to the depot, letting him know that Joe had told her all about him. Finn dusts himself off and is fine, declining Olivia’s offer.
Later that night, there’s a knock on Finn’s door. To apologize for almost running him over, Olivia has bought a bottle of booze to share. Finn invites her in, and together they have a drink. They finish off the bottle, and Olivia ends up sleeping on the couch. She wakes up and hurries out. Joe sees her and calls out to her, asking if she “missed her train”. Joe is impressed with Finn, and knocks on his door bringing him a “cafe con leche” and asking him what happened, telling him “you’re the man!”.
Finn then meets Emily, played by Michelle Williams, at the local library, where he wants to check out a book on trains. Emily is startled by him, not knowing that he was there. Olivia comes in, and says to Finn “I’m sorry I overstayed my welcome last night”, which piques Emily’s interest.
The three of them form an unlikely friendship, bonding with each other over their loneliness and unique experiences. Finn, as a train buff, walks the right of way daily with Joe. Olivia gives Finn a camera so he can film trains with Joe. Later, they view the film at Olivia’s lake home where Joe cooks dinner. Finn and Olivia are sitting on the dock chatting, and she asks him why he moved to Newfoundland, to which Finn humorously answers “I wanted to be closer to Joe”.
Joe asks Finn if he wants to go to “The Mill”, a local watering hole. Finn surprisingly agrees to Joe’s astonishment. While Finn is waiting for Joe and his father to arrive, Emily comes in and sits next to him. She asks him where he lives, and Finn tells her at the old depot. They talk about this for a while, and then Emily lets Finn know that she’s pregnant by her boyfriend Chris, one of the locals who had made fun of Finn. Joe doesn’t show, and as Finn and Emily are leaving, Chris shows up. Acting like the ass he is, Emily tells him to get lost, and Finn tries to protect her. Chris then shoves Finn and Emily tells him to just leave.
Later that night, Emily goes to the depot to apologize about Chris. He invites her in and shows her the depot. They sit on the couch, and she kisses Finn, and then asks if she can stay the night, but just to sleep. Once again, Joe is impressed.
Finally, Olivia gets some depressing news about her estranged husband, and suffers a breakdown. This brings the “three amigos” back together, and their unlikely friendship is restored.
The movies is pretty good, and was done on a shoe-string budget of only $500,000. The film received good reviews, both for the screenplay and the direction. Filmed mostly in Northern New Jersey at various locations, the film brings together many disparate characters, their quirks, and small town life.