Early 2015, for some reason, has been a slow month for me, personally, with watching new titles. This coming week that will change, but I’ve found myself revisiting films that I’d previously seen, to review and to enjoy again. This time I revisited the 2007 indie dramedy, Lars & the Real Girl.
Directed by Craig Gillespie (Mr Woodcock) and written by Nancy Oliver (Six Feet Under, True Blood), this is one of those films that takes a humorous concept yet makes a moving, funny, sad and thoughtful story out of it, and I really loved this film when I first saw it a few years ago. Revisiting it some eight years after its release and I still love it, it is just so well acted and written so well that I found myself drawn to the characters as their story unfolded, again.
Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling) is a loner. He’s socially awkard, quiet and eccentric, but he’s got a kind heart. He lives in a small Northern American town, and one day he decides to take his girlfriend to dinner and introduce them to his family, his sister, Karin (Emily Mortimer) and brother-in-law, Gus (Paul Schneider). The strange thing about this? Well, his girlfriend isn’t exactly “real”, but rather a sex-doll that Lars finds online and has shipped to his house. But this isn’t a perverted story of sexual escapades, but rather the tale of a young man who is dating a fabrication (the fabric in question being a rubber-type-substance). Lars doesn’t just live with the doll though, but instead asks his sister if his “potential love”, named Bianca, can stay with them in their house until he gets to know her better. Lars lives in an adjoined garage next to the house where his sister, who is a caring woman and is pregnant, and his brother-in-law, live. The house used to belong to Lars and Karin’s deceased parents. The stange relationship leads to a series of events and the whole town seems to know about the story of Lars and his Real Girl, from doctors, to the people at his work, where he holds an office job down, and other people. The responses differ, all the while Lars is trying to continue and nurture his relationship with Bianca.
Now, there is more to it than that, the film deals with mental health issues, it deals with mourning, it deals with family, with love, with judging others for their choices, and with individualism. Beneath all the serious issues that are poked and prodded at though, this is a really heart-warming and tender film, and Gosling is fantastic as Lars. Gosling has gone on to be one of the bigger stars in Hollywood, but looking back on his indie work before he made the bigger movies shows how good an actor he is. Mortimer, as Karin, a loving and supportive sister, is excellent too, and an actress I always take great enjoyment in seeing. The cast do a tremendous job with what writer, Oliver and director, Gillespie, have created for them.
I think some people may think that because the film deals with a guy and his “sex doll” that there is likely some gratuitous sex involved here, and some slapstick humour that follows his strange bond with his inanimate love-interest. That’s a mistake, this isn’t “that” film, and while there is plenty of humour here, it isn’t at the expense of the story or the characters who inhabit it. A truly original and remarkable film that I will continue to revisit over time, I recommend this highly to fans of indie cinema, or those curious about how a concept like this can result in a film of such gentle wit and warmth. See it.