It’s pretty much expected that a film in which a socially awkward grown man orders a sex doll from the internet and pretends she’s his girlfriend would be a bit on the weird side. But what’s unexpected, is how much of a gem that film has the potential to be – and is realized in Lars and the Real Girl. Lars is 27, and lives in the garage of his older brother Guy (Paul Schneider) and his pregnant wife, Karin (Emily Mortimer). He’s hopelessly reclusive. The backdrop is a small conservative town in northern Minnesota, which is portrayed so well in the film. (There’s no hustle and bustle, but plenty of ugly sweaters.)
I will admit, I was skeptical at first, especially when Lars first brought the Bianca in to meet his brother and Karin. It was uncomfortable and weird. There are hardly any sexual references in this film – and those that are made, aren’t made by Lars towards Bianca – his “real” girl. It isn’t about that. The film at first centers around Lars’ brother and sister in-law getting him “help” to treat his delusion. He begins visiting the family doctor/psychologist on a weekly basis, who is the first to “humor” Lars in his relationship and acknowledging Bianca as real. With a few raised eyebrows, Bianca begins to settle into life in Minnesota. She makes friends, volunteers at the hospital, and begins to “assert her independence,” all the while, unwittingly helping Lars into the world as well, helping him to feel things and to connect in ways that he never was able to without her. It’s just a movie you have to see to really get; explaining it doesn’t do it any justice.
It’s a film about kindness, love, acceptance, and what can happen when we choose those things over fear and judgment. No cheap shots, here. It has an understated tone and quiet humor. It was touching and incredibly subtle, and in the end, heartbreaking…then hopeful. So worth watching.