Finbar McBride, a quiet, withdrawn, unmarried man with dwarfism, has a deep love of railroads. He works in a Hoboken, New Jersey model train hobby shop owned by his elderly and similarly taciturn friend Henry Styles. Because he feels ostracized by a public that tends to view him as peculiar due to his size, Fin keeps to himself.
When Henry dies unexpectedly, Fin is told that the hobby shop is to be closed. However, he also learns that Henry’s will left him a piece of rural property with an abandoned train depot on it. He moves into the old building hoping for a life of solitude, but he quickly finds himself reluctantly becoming enmeshed in the lives of his neighbors. Joe Oramas, a Cuban American, is operating his father’s roadside snack truck while the elder man recovers from an illness, and Olivia Harris is an artist trying to cope with the sudden death of her young son two years earlier and the ramifications it has had on her marriage to David, from whom she is separated; Olivia’s initial and secondary meetings with Fin almost get him killed when she is distracted while driving her car. Cleo is a young girl who shares Fin’s interest in trains and wants him to lecture her class about them. Emily is the local librarian, a young woman dismayed to discover she is pregnant by her ne’er-do-well boyfriend.
Joe, relentlessly upbeat and overly talkative, soon cracks through Fin’s reserve. The two begin to take daily walks along the tracks, and after Olivia gives Fin a movie camera, Joe drives alongside a passing train so that Fin can film it. Joe and Fin sleep over at Olivia’s house after watching the footage and the next morning a flustered, unannounced David is greeted by the two of them. The three forge a tentative friendship that is threatened when Olivia descends into a deep depression, disappearing from the town. Meanwhile, Emily seeks solace in Fin, who slowly is realizing interaction with other humans may not be as unpleasant as he thought. Fin tries to protect Emily from her boyfriend at a bar, but he pushes Fin aside, causing Fin to lapse back into his asocial behavior. Emily later comes to apologize, and after she and Fin share a kiss, she spends the night with Fin. Cleo asks Fin if Olivia is coming back, to which he replies that he doesn’t know. He decides to keep an eye on Olivia’s house, but when he spots her fighting on the phone with David and he goes up on the porch, Olivia angrily tells him to leave. Fin spends the night drinking and, collapsing on the track, is passed over by a train, undamaged but for his pocket watch. As if feeling blessed by his gift of life (and symbolically upon his watch getting destroyed in the train mishap), Fin walks up to Olivia’s home only to find she has attempted suicide. Olivia reveals that David is having another baby with a different woman. Fin takes care of Olivia’s home while she recuperates in the hospital. Fin picks up the courage to talk to school kids about trains.
Olivia, Joe, and Fin share a meal at Olivia’s house, their conversation filled with some small talk and reconciliation. Olivia and Joe tease Fin about Emily, suggesting he go seek her again.