The Station Agent
—About this Film
The first time my husband and I visited our church, we were approached by two greeters who talked to us for at least ten minutes. Then later in the week, the lady brought banana bread to my home. I was shocked at the hospitality and didn’t really know what to do with it. Much like this movie, Christ taught that we need each other even when we think we’d rather be left alone.
Fin, the main character of the movie, has dwarfism and can’t ever seem to break away from people’s reactions to it. There seems to be no middle ground between people snapping pictures and completely missing him altogether. In a world where grocery clerks can’t see him over the counter and librarians trip over him, Fin wants to be left alone. Olivia also wants to be left alone. She retreated to her country home after her son’s death and began painting images of her broken life. The mottled faces in her paintings suggest that somehow she will never be restored. The third character, Joe, wants anything but isolation. Starving for friendships, he persistently harasses and befriends both Fin and Olivia. Joe, though comical and innocent, represents our society’s need for aggressive intervention into the lives of those hurting around us.
Believe it or not, people like to be meddled with, even though it may be initially annoying. Despite the time frame of six weeks to complete the paperwork and close own the model train repair shop, Fin moves to the isolated community in New Jersey within three weeks of his boss’s death. Although Fin is in a hurry to go to the land of nothing, Joe runs a hot dog stand outside the depot and presents his first obstacle to being left alone. Olivia almost runs him off the road twice by accident, and presents his second obstacle to being left alone. Although Joe initiates most of the interaction between the three main characters, it doesn’t take long for the others to open up. Soon, Fin actually chooses to go out his front door to talk with Joe in the mornings, and later reaches out to Olivia by going to visit her when she isolates. Olivia moves from accepting invitations to dinner and walking the right of way, to actually hosting dinner and a movie at her home.
But just as the three begin to get close and open up, here comes the pain. The very day that Fin decides to break his personal boycott against bars (presumably because he has had a bad experience there before), he encounters an angry redneck who treats him like a child or worse, a small animal which has no chance against a human. It’s perfectly humiliating. And just as Olivia makes the move to answer the phone (which she has not chosen to do in a long time), she receives heartbreaking news from her husband. In their pain, both of these characters reject Joe and each other. They decide once again, that life is better spent alone than with the pain that comes from reaching out and getting involved in humanity. Even Joe gives up and moves his hot dog stand elsewhere. Is there hope? Yes, but I won’t give away the story.
The train theme works perfectly to relate the truth of friendship and community. When Fin first goes to find the depot where he will live, he walks the railroad tracks to get there. He later states that railroads made America what it is today. People didn’t leave their homes before the railroads carried them to new places. But, the image of the station agent implies that it is also important to have a home somewhere. Fin tells his friend Emily that conductors stay with the train on its journey, but that station agents stay in the town and provide services like delivering mail, selling groceries, and cutting hair. Fin’s new home is purposefully located in the depot, the place where the station agent works. Thus Fin is meant for community. Furthermore, the image of walking the right of way is an excellent comment on our duty to one another. Right of Way laws allow railroads to build tracks on private property, regardless of the owner’s opinion about it. In a way, the film suggests that we have the right to invade others’ lives in an effort to pave paths of love and concern. Even when people say they want to be left alone, it is our job to recognize their need for a helping hand. In the end, it’s what we all really want. How many people lie in hospital beds asking for their old trophies or stock portfolios? No, what everyone wants are friends and family beside them through the toughest times in life.
Christ had a very interesting thing to say about this very concept. He said, “People will know that you are my disciples if….” Care to fill in the blank? If…you build a really big church. If…you make a lot of money in my name. If...you gain power and become very influential. If…none of these! If…“you love one another.” (John 13: 35). Christ called us to love each other no matter what. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (v.34) That means we are to love others sacrificially, and without concern as to whether they want to be loved. Christ died so that all people may have the opportunity to be loved and saved, whether they decide to take it or not. There are other verses in the Bible which expound on the idea of uniting and helping one another. If you want to go further, read Hebrews 10:24-25, I Thess. 5:11, and Romans 12:4-10.Several other things about this movie are worth mentioning. The exchange of names between the characters stresses the importance of identifying people as individuals. Also note the diversity of the places these characters called home. The cinematography effectively shows the contrast between what is truly big and small in life. The movie evokes both tears and laughter quite successfully, and the actors’ performances are stunning. But most of all, the honesty of the characters’ desires to escape life’s pain, and their ability to work through it together were true to life. Thank God for the friendships we have!
—About this Film