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Lars And The Real Girl - Review

Lars & The Real Girl

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted scene – “Bathtub”; The Real Story of Lars and the Real Story; A Real Leading Lady; Theatrical trailer.

LARS & The Real Girl may sound like a difficult pitch for audiences to swallow, given that it’s about a man’s relationship with a blow up sex doll, but those daring enough to see it will be rewarded with one of the standout films of the year.

Lars (Ryan Gosling) is a painfully shy loner who one day surprises brother and sister-in-law next door (Paul Schneider and Emily Mortimer) with the announcement that he’ll be bringing his girlfriend to dinner. When she turns out to be a life-like plastic doll named ‘Bianca’, they’re understandably concerned and immediately call on the help of town psychologist Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson).

Surprisingly, the townsfolk begin to accept Bianca as one of their own, a response that in turn triggers an awakening in Lars as he begins to deal with his feelings of insecurity and isolation.

Written by ex-Six Feet Under scribe Nancy Oliver and directed with considerable finesse by Craig Gillespie, it’s an amusing and often quite touching experience that thrives on the originality of its premise.

Viewers anticipating a smutty tale that offers loads of slapstick physical comedy will certainly be surprised to discover that, instead, the film offers a sensitive and thoughtful psychological journey that’s certain to leave you feeling uplifted come the end.

Ryan Gosling, so good as the cocksure lawyer in last year’s legal thriller Fracture, is equally brilliant here as the socially stilted Lars. His slow and self-forced awakening an expertly realised piece of acting that’s as heartbreaking as it is inspirational.

But there’s expert support provided by an outstanding ensemble cast that goes some way to explaining why such potentially tricky subject matter might not have seemed like such a career risk in the first place.

Emily Mortimer and Paul Schneider are equally involving as Lars’ immediate friends and family, supporting his relationship in spite of their own misgivings and guilt, while Patricia Clarkson excels as the psychiatrist who allows Lars the time he needs to complete his journey and Kelli Garner is great as the plucky office worker whose interest in Lars ultimately proves to be his catalyst for change.

Director Gillespie also has fun inventing new ways for the townsfolk to embrace Bianca (not literally) and keeps the tone consistently sweet and quirky, whilst also ensuring that it carries a strong emotional pull that gives rise to a surprisingly tear-jerking finale.

In doing so, he ensures that his film rises above any sordid suspicions to become one of the most surprisingly feel-good releases of the year. It’s a life-affirming masterpiece that really shouldn’t be missed.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 106mins
UK DVD Release: August 18, 2008