Lars And The Real Girl * * * *
Director: Craig Gillespie.
Screenplay: Nancy Oliver.
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Kelli Garner, Paul Schneider, Nancy Beatty, Doug Lennox.
When you see the poster for this film, with a moustachioed Ryan Gosling sitting on his sofa, grinning from ear to ear and accompanied by a sex doll, you be forgiven for entering into this and expecting some form of farcical sex-comedy. The poster however, is somewhat misleading. This is more of a drama (with a hint of quirkiness) and it’s a sensitive and heartfelt one at that.
Pathologically shy guy Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling) introduces his new ‘girlfriend’ Bianca, a lifelike plastic doll, to his sister-in-law Karin (Emily Mortimer) and brother Gus (Paul Schneider). Somewhat concerned, they decide to call in sympathetic psychologist Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson) who advises that everyone play along with treating Bianca as a real person to try and get to the bottom of Lars’ obvious mental condition.
Lars is a tragic character that Gosling imbues with a real fragile innocence. It’s another marvellous and enigmatic performance from him. He keeps the audience at just the right distance. Never letting you in, but still maintaining a likeability. Lars is a character that could so easily be laughed at and ridiculed but it’s testament to writer Nancy Oliver, director Craig Gillespie, the supporting cast of Mortimer, Schnieder and Clarkson, and particularly Gosling’s lead in bringing the character – and his social trauma – so vividly to life. Instead of being a farcical film of cheap jokes, it becomes a touching exploration of mental health that’s quite unlike anything you’ll have seen before.
It’s deliberately paced and some may even find it lethargic but I found it to be a highly original and deeply sensitive drama anchored by a marvellous central performance.