Saturday, September 27, 2008

"She loved us..."

Lars and the real girl is a truly quirky film!

Surreal at worst, beautifully crafted at best. Part Pygmalion, part The Velveteen Rabbit, this story captured my heart with its quirky off-beat humour and sensitive handling of some very difficult material.

The film stars Ryan Gosling in the title role and it deals with the subject of mental illness in a radically different way to most Hollywood portrayals of deeply disturbing and fragile states of mind.

Lars is a sweet loner in a small "northern" (it's not really specified exactly where) community. He grew up with a practically absent family it seems. His brother Gus, who has now moved back into the family home with his lovely pregnant wife, left his grieving father when Lars was very young. Lars father, we learn, was heartbroken, having lost his wife while she was giving birth to Lars. We can only guess at how this might have affected the boy during the course of his growing years, but from the picture presented brilliantly by Ryan Goslings portrayal of Lars, we guess it must have been an incredibly difficult childhood indeed.

Lars stuns his brother, sister-in-law and the town with news that he has a girlfriend. She is like no girlfriend they've ever seen before. An anatomically correct, life-sized doll named Bianca with a full and interesting background and bio. She comes into the lives of this community and they are left bewildered and staggered at how close they've come to losing one of their own to a desolation of mind too intense to be articulated. They never, ever, knew how precarious the life and mind of Lars Lindstrom has been to this point!

At the behest of the towns doctor/psychologist, they agree to go along with Lars' elaborate fantasy to the point where they too begin to adopt Bianca as one of their own.

It's a beautifully crafted, under-stated film that is both sweet and kind-hearted at its core. It's premise may be a little bit weak here and there but this is a movie about Love, Community and Sacrifice - not about the mundane realities for most people with mental illness where they tend to cop brutal shaming, bigotry and rejection rather than loving, if bemused, acceptance and tolerance. What we see here is a community who deeply cares for one of its sons and his gradual awakening to that fact.

When I was young, I believed that all my soft toys were real! My favourite story was The Velveteen Rabbit - about a soft toy becoming actually real through the power of love. To this day if anyone pressed me, I'd still say soft toys are real (when we aren't looking ;)). There is something about my own state of mind that wants to suspend disbelief long enough to will life and stories into the stuffed, softly, furnished chests of toys! And yes...I may have a delusion too!

Lars and the real girl will probably not appeal to many people. It has a slow meandering pace, where the details to Lars and his background are delivered gradually and deliberately. And, I have to admit, the subject matter is's weird! That a community would tolerate a grown man believing he is in love with a sex-toy but treats her as a real woman, is a stretch. In this case however, it works and Bianca becomes as real as any girl who lived and loved!

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