There are clear markers that set aside The Station Agent from mainstream American movies. The limited budget, the austere production style and the modest profiles of the cast actors all identify the film as belonging to the ‘independent’ genre. The off-beat story line and its central theme is also distant to conventional plots and themes. But, despite all the hurdles that confront independent films, The Station Agent met both critical and commercial success.
The Station Agent breaks away from regular commercial fare in that it does not show typical, stylized relations between humans. Rather, it explores the possibility and feasibility of strange equations between newly acquainted humans. For example, when Fin moves to the old building left behind by Henry (upon the latter’s death), he suddenly finds himself forming an intricate network of social interactions. In this newfound social atmosphere there are opportunities for creative exploration as well as for personal bonding. The former is attested by the joy Fin derives through observing and studying trains and the latter is borne by the close personal bonds he develops with Joe and Olivia. The most distinct character of this independent film is the lack of sexual interest in any of these relationships. This is a far cry from conventional Hollywood fare whose plots are woven around sexual/romantic interest of the lead characters.
The Station Agent is simultaneously inspiring and thought-provoking. For example, the film shows the transformation of a physically disadvantage person’s attitude toward life and other humans. This way it poses key questions to the viewer as to how they view their own predicaments in life. Fin’s near-death experience on the rail tracks is an imploration to the audience to seize everyday moments and make the maximum out of them. This subtle and implicit dialogue that the director Thomas McCarthy strikes with the viewer makes The Station Agent a truly one-of-its-kind independent film.
The Station Agent, Directed by Thomas McCarthy, Produced by Robert May et.al, Distributed by Miramax Films, United States, 2003.