Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling) lives in a small Wisconsin town. He doesn’t engage in much human interaction despite having a job and thus chooses to live with his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and his pregnant wife, Karin (Emily Mortimer), in their garage. They are acutely aware of Lars’s antisocial behavior, particularly Karin, who attempts to involve him by inviting him for dinner and breakfast (of which he finds ways to avoid attending). After briefly being introduced to the concept by a coworker, Lars orders himself a lifelike sex doll. What follows is not a film revolving around sordid jokes, but instead a film where Lars considers Bianca (as she is named) to be a real person with a real personality. Gus and Karin know that Bianca is really a sex doll and are concerned about Lars’s mental wellbeing; they convince him to see a doctor by telling Lars that Bianca should have a checkup. The family doctor Dagmar Berman (Patricia Clarkson) and a psychiatrist go along with Lars’s concept and treat Bianca in an effort to help Lars. Eventually, Gus and Karin accept this notion, and even the townsfolk become convinced and embrace Bianca in order to support Lars.
How the community come together and support a fellow citizen is the most heartwarming aspect of Lars and the Real Girl. The residents of the small town may be skeptical at first, but they soon begin to invite Bianca to social events, and she even gains employment working as a window model in a clothes shop. Lars is pleased that Bianca has been accepted into the community and in return, they are happy that Lars has become more sociable.
Some audiences may question the conceivable possibility of Lars’s delusional psychological mindset, but Gosling’s performance makes it plausible. He truly immerses himself into the role- one standout scene finds Doctor Berman assessing how Lars responds to touch, lending additional depth to Gosling’s character along with strength to the credibility of his mental illness.
Even Bianca’s changing appearance over the course of the film helps dismantle any difficulty an audience might have accepting the admittedly bizarre concept. Though she may arrive in provocative clothing, she soon becomes more naturalistic looking, dressed in everyday clothes and even removing her makeup, giving her a far more human appearance.
There is emphasis given to the heartwarming story as it is juxtaposed against an icy-cold town in winter, and even the music embodies the mood of the season. Its gentle sounds of percussion add the feeling of solitude and longing for love, whether that be individually or collectively as a community.
Some audiences may find Lars and the Real Girl somewhat far-fetched with its concept, but there have been many other films that have dealt with unconventional relationships, such as Her, since its release. Like those films, Lars and the Real Girl examines wider issues as well. It incorporates tasteful humour with a heartfelt resolution and will make audiences question what more they can do for others and possibly those who experience mental illness.