88 Minutes of Film That Could Save a Life

That's the power of 'The Station Agent.'
88 Minutes of Film That Could Save a Life

You try walking across Seattle alone. At night. Barefoot.

My college roommate did all the time. I didn't understand it, just as I didn’t understand his quiet demeanor, his watchfulness from the edges, or his aversion to typical college-life distractions. His after-dark disappearances intrigued me. So I took to walking with him. I wore hiking boots, and still I struggled to match his incredible stride. As I did, my own pace—in walking and in living—permanently changed. I came to value the rewards of adventures off the beaten path, of being quiet in good company. And I found a compassionate friend.

I think of Michael when I watch Tom McCarthy’s large-hearted 2003 comedy The Station Agent.

And I watch it frequently. I see myself in Joe: the talkative food-truck barista (Bobby Cannavale) who sets up shop next to an obsolete train depot in Middle-of-Nowhere, New Jersey. I think of Michael when I watch Fin (Peter Dinklage): a soft-spoken loner who moves into that depot for the solitude, and who eventually surrenders, accepting Joe’s gregarious, uninvited companionship.

It’s remarkable: Watch how Joe and Fin, like an oversized puppy playing with Grumpy Cat, become complementary. Watch how they transform one other through the simple, shared experience of long walks and short silences.

How might the world be changed if we went strolling, in quiet attentiveness, with those we would rather avoid?

My comparison of my roommate and Fin only goes so far. I don’t know where Michael’s quiet nature came from, but it’s obvious what made Fin so disinclined to talk with anybody: He’s been mocked, abused, and avoided for his dwarfism. He has every reason to withdraw from society, to forget ...

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