The Station Agent (United States)
The movie is about Finbar McBride, a little person who is very passionate about trains. When his train-store owner boss died, Fin inherits an abandoned depot in New Jersey where he decides to take residence, with the intention of being left alone. He meets the loud, motor-mouth hotdog vendor, Joe, who is immediately drawn to Fin and befriends the unwilling new kid on the block. After almost being run over twice by Olivia, a grieving divorcee, Fin becomes (again) the unwilling confidante. Aside from the two, he meets an African-American girl Claire and the young and very sexual town librarian, Emily. As the story moves forward, Fin’s initial motive of isolation is broken as he discovers the importance of friendships and connections.
Thomas Carter, writer and director, should be commended for a very beautifully written script and how he translated this beauty into film. The choice of shots conveys isolation and connection, cynicism and hopefulness, bitterness and sweetness, difference and similarity, and sorrow and joy. Sequences start of with a negative note but ends with a positive one. Trains and railroads become an integral character in the story for it symbolizes connection and the certainty of destination. Somehow, the characters are drowning in isolation—whether intended or forced into—and are finding a hard time traveling the tracks of life. Fin likes to be and knows he is alone because he is “different.” Olivia is falling down a depression spiral due to the death of her son and her divorce. Joe isolates himself from the stress of taking care of his father by taking his hotdog van to the depot and striking up conversations because he wants to maintain a sense of sanity by being with Fin and Olivia. But like railroads, the intersection of their lives creates a new found sense of hope and direction towards their inner strengths as individuals. The actors delivered very good performances that created the most memorable scenes in the movie: the bedroom scene with Fin and Olivia, Joe’s apology scene, the scene where Fin tries to protect Emily, and the breakdown scene of Fin in the bar which was heart-wrenching. Although, the character of Joe could have been more three-dimensional to give it more punch. One thing that should be recognized in this film is the treatment of the main character being a little person. Carter shoots scenes where Fin is seated with other characters in the movie giving him the illusion of being of the same height with the characters, the end result of which is what the movie wants to say—that people are all the same, that we need other people to stay connected not only with the world at large, but primarily with ourselves.
Before Sunset (United States)
The film explores the question, “what would you do if you are given the chance to make it with the one who got away?” Richard Linklater takes us in a sweet reunion of two people who shared one spectacular night nine years ago. For me, the movie will achieve the most impact for people who have watched and enjoyed the movie nine years ago. Since it is a reunion, audience who were able to watch “Before Sunset” get to join them and be happy for them. Jesse and Celine have grown as individuals but they still retain the very core and nature of their personalities that we enjoyed in “Before Sunrise.” The performance of the two actors were organically impeccable. Ethan Hawke was still playful, flirty, and very American while Celine is strong-willed, competitive, and very French. I love the moments where we as an audience want to shout “kiss each other, for crying out loud!”, with the attempts to lean forward, the brushing of the arms, Jesse fixing Celine’s hair, the hesitant attempts to touch each other. Reminiscent of the record booth scene in “Before Sunrise.” The movie still managed to generate the interest from the audience to witness the intellectual tennis Jesse and Celine play and trying to dodge topics that would deal with the two of them. However, “Before Sunset” lacked the long stays in places that makes it part of their memory. But I feel that there is no need for this anymore since the movie is heavily anchored to the memories of that night and as Jesse said, “Memories are not finished as long as we are alive.” Therefore, the movie is a continuation of that memory. On this premise, the movie will not be able to stand alone for viewers to fully understand and appreciate the dynamics of Jesse and Celine’s relationship. Particularly, the scene about Jesse and Celine arguing about whether they had sex or not on that night in Vienna will be useless for first-time viewers. (Question from someone like me who watched “Before Sunrise”: Did they have sex? Now, I’m not sure. See what I mean? A first-time viewer would not get involved like this.) Overall, the film was successful in living up to the witty atmosphere of the first movie and lifting it to a higher level to exhibit the growth of the characters but still staying true to that one night of passion, intelligence, and love and the characters experiencing the pain of what could have been for the both of them.
For A Lost Soldier (Netherlands)
The movie opens with Jeroen, a choreographer who is putting up a number about love and passion. He then receives word that a person close to his heart died and he has to attend the funeral. On his return, he goes down memory lane and reminisce his life as a 12-year old in war-torn Amsterdam and how he is shipped to the Netherlands and placed in a foster home. When Amsterdam gets liberated by Canada, Jeroen meets one of the “Liberators.” Carl, a Canadian soldier in his late 20’s, takes interest in Jeroen, and later falls in love with him and the two enters a summer relationship.
The film treads dangerous ground by exploring the love between a grown man and a 12 year old boy smitten with experiencing his first love. Writer and director Ronald Kerbosch treated this with utmost care for it not to be exploitative but still allowing the characters to freely express themselves. The character of Jeroen did not speak English, which made their relationship esoteric and confined within their own rules and parameters. The love between Jeroen and Carl was sweet and innocent to a certain extent. Then comes the medium shot of Carl having (implied) anal sex with Jeroen. I think the director was intending it to be sweet with Carl whispering sweet nothings and taking care of Jeroen, sort of “guiding” him to the entire process. I wish there was more of a visual back story to Carl’s character for his falling in love with a younger boy be more grounded with a strong motive for the intimate scenes to be completely devoid of perversity. Moreover, the structure of the story relied heavily on the flashback which made the supposed coming-of-age theme lack foundation because there is nothing to anchor it to with the inadequate opening and premise.