The movie unfolds with the slow pace of real life and the risk of boring its audience. We watch real trains in real time come and go through the suburbs with nothing visually arresting to keep our attention, just the usual jumble of wires and train tracks and cereal box buildings.
The main character, a middle aged single father named Lionel (like the train set), lives with his beautiful young adult daughter who attends university in Paris. Lionel says little, but his still face expresses his concern for his daughter’s future, I think. Their relationship is so loving and intimate that you wonder if they are sleeping together, but no, it’s just the tension that builds as they determine what they should do for each other to set each other free.
There is one scene that finally reveals how the reticent man is feeling. Denis, the director, clearly loves the way this beautiful actor looks, getting in and out of his bathrobe. And so do other women who cotton to him even when there is evidently nothing tying him down to any of them. He has come to the restaurant with his daughter and a friend, and then hits on the waitress who is younger and more beautiful than his friend.
As they dance, you see how the father has desires just like any other man, and the audience intuits that he wants the daughter to experience and enjoy them too.