A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35
Lars and the Real Girl is one of the most moving, heartfelt films I have seen. It is a film about a guy that falls in love with a sex doll. Lars and the Real Girl is quiet, full of life, character and charm. It is the type of film that made me happy to have seen it. I was smiling for much of the film and at other times, I was fighting back tears. The acting is superb, especially Ryan Gosling as the titular character. Lars is emotionally stunted, to say the least. From the information that we are given, he lost his mother when he was very young and his father became distant and withdrawn. His older brother Gus, played by Paul Schneider, was old enough to remember his father before tragedy struck the family and was able to get away from the negative influence before it stunted his psychological development. Lars was not so lucky. He is a grown man, maintains steady employment, attends church on a regular basis, but he has no social skills. He avoids eye contact with people, even family. His speech is all starts and stops. He sits alone in his home (a garage behind his parent’s old house where his brother and sister-in-law live) and stares at the wall. He is a damaged and broken human being who cannot connect in any meaningful way with the people around him. His sister-in-law Karin, played with a vulnerable passion by Emily Mortimer, repeatedly reaches out to him because she is worried. Only reluctantly does he spend time with them. He prefers to be alone. His psychological issues lead him to creating a delusion where a sex doll becomes his girlfriend.
At this point, either you are with the film or you are not. He orders a lifelike doll and invents a complex, fascinating backstory for her, including the fact that she was raised by nuns and is a very religious person. Her religious convictions will not allow her to stay in the garage with Lars, so she must stay in the guest bedroom of his brother’s house. According to Lars, she does not speak English very well, they met on the internet, and she is confined to a wheelchair. Needless to say, his family is stunned. So is the rest of the town. Yet the beauty of the film is how this charade affects everyone involved. The beauty is how the people who truly care for Lars respond. The Scripture passage at the beginning of this review is not there by accident. Lars and the Real Girl is a bold, heart-wide-open display of Christian love, the likes of which is rare in the film world. I hope others will appreciate it as much as I do.
(Content Note: Due to the sensitive nature of the story, this is a film for older teens and up. There is no nudity and very little bad language in the film, but a story about a sex doll is certain to bring up some questions from younger viewers that they are not ready to process.)