Analysis: “The Station Agent”

As usual, our objective here is to demonstrate the Noetitek™ system’s ability to facilitate revelations, catalyze new perspectives, and support creative thinking. As always, the post displays a portion of our analysis, a meaningful taste of a larger treatment to come in book form at a future time. Our primary objective for this promotional blog is to attract clients—individuals and executives seeking to optimize success through applications of PluribusOne™’s arsenal of perception-enhancing meta-tools. 

The highly-acclaimed multiple award-winning film: The Station Agent, written and directed by Thomas McCarthy, is advertised as: a comedy-drama about friendship among three (actually four) adults who have “absolutely nothing in common.” Our analysis deviates from what seems to be the creator’s (or marketer’s) perspective, which should not be surprising because it is often the case that a writer, artist, or filmmaker does not entirely understand the creation that a muse has chosen them to channel. 

At least one critic intuited the presence of an unidentified additional key figure beyond Fin, Olivia, and Joe, and even beyond Emily the librarian. But the additional and elusive character whose presence we sense is not the quiet space created by introvert Fin’s eschewing of small talk, and it is not the tension created by chatty extrovert Joe’s persistence in trying to engage Fin in conversation. Nor is it another human. The additional character, a mute protagonist, is the railroad passenger car that stands alongside the station that railroad-buff Fin inherits after his friend and employer dies. 

When the railroad car and all that it symbolizes is recognized, it is easy to see that Fin, Olivia, Joe, and Emily actually have so much in common that they are a “foursome in circumstance,” to coin a phrase. They all share the same existential circumstance as the railroad car—sidetracked. Fin was sidelined in life by his dwarfism before he was sidetracked by his employer’s death which left him to retire to the abandoned station that provides him and the empty railroad car a home. Olivia was sidetracked by the deaths of her son and marriage. Joe is sidetracked by his father who needs help at home and in running the business. Emily becomes sidetracked by her family and callous “lover.” There are scenes of walking, working, sitting, and driving at the sides of train tracks. 

But the movie is not about how cruel and sad life can be, not about how painful it is to be sidelined, benched, displaced, subordinated, or marginalized. It is about the redemption and restoration that can occur whenever one person breaks through psychological barriers to reach out for help, or reach out to provide help to another. Yet this regaining of life, this “getting on-track,” also requires ripping some things out. We see Fin tearing seats out of the railroad car to refurbish them before tearing away the negative emotions keeping him from lecturing at the school, and we see Olivia needing to tear through her self-destructive self-pity to gain a better appreciation for her new friends. And we can also see why the Newfoundland (new-found territory), New Jersey’s little railway station was chosen.

Although The Station Agent is not the sort of movie likely to inspire a sequel, by the end of the story it is clear that the threesome is soon to become a foursome—that Emily will come aboard. As individuals, they have found themselves anew, and as a mutually-supportive group their bonding has become a grafting. The message of Fin’s smashed watch is that time is of the essence, and it was time for something to stop. The condition of being sidetracked does not need to be permanent; it is overcome by force of will, by taking heartfelt action.

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