Subtle, surprisingly gritty Sundance-winning comedy-drama
DIRECTED BY Tom McCarthy
STARRING Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale
Opens March 30, Cert 15, 90 mins
Finbar McBride (Dinklage) wants to be alone. Inheriting an abandoned train depot in rural New Jersey, Fin?a dwarf?assumes he can now live a quiet, stoical life of solitude, which would suit him fine. He’s a tad irritated to find local hot-dog salesman Joe (Cannavale) trying too hard to make friends, grieving artist Olivia (Clarkson) nearly running him over in her car every few seconds, and a cute librarian (Michelle Williams) coming on to him. Soon Fin’s the strong centre of a screwed-up community, whether he likes it or not. Gradually, he learns to love it.
Maybe the plot of McCarthy’s debut sounds a little sentimental or cutely Capra-esque, but this Sundance Audience Award winner defies expectations with spontaneous, tangential humour and the wit to be grumpy when it could be cloying. If it’s a fraction fairy-tale-like that everyone takes to Fin so swiftly, the film never plumps for easy options, with each character complex and believable. Clarkson, this year’s indie queen, gives Olivia a multi-layered personality?weak, strong, and all points in between.
As she and Fin get closer, she turns, shouting, “I’m not your girlfriend. I’m not your mother. You’re not a child.” Fin goes drinking, and for the first time makes an issue of his size, standing atop a bar and slurring that everyone should take a good long look.
You may remember Dinklage from Living In Oblivion or Human Nature. The fact of his size is brilliantly handled (or, more accurately, left alone) here. Of course, Fin’s physically small, and taunted by cries like, “Hey buddy, where’s Snow White?”, but his taciturn dignity becomes a source of energy and resilience for all the town’s “vulnerable people”. The film’s a benchmark for how not to be patronising, and if Fin’s success with the ladies is a mite implausible, he’s a convincing new kind of hero. These people aren’t idealised Spielberg saints or glamourised Tarantino sinners: they’re just real, rough-edged outsiders with a suppressed desire to connect. Deadpan, visually subtle and mutedly hungry, this is a beautiful film.