Film Review: Lars and the Real Girl, from 21 March, Cameo Cinema

15 Mar

Lars and the Real Girl

Six Feet Under writer Nancy Oliver and relatively unknown director Craig Gillespie address the subject of mental illness, community and the power of the open mind in their first big screen offering, Lars And The Real Girl.

Set in small town America, the film tells the unusual story of Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling), a sweet natured individual whose emotional baggage leaves him painfully shy and reclusive.

While choosing to spend the majority of his time in relative solitude, brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and sister-in-law Karin (Emily Mortimer) are pleasantly surprised when Lars announces he will be bringing a girl over to their house for dinner, but surprise quickly evaporates into shock when Lars appears with an internet bought, life-sized sex doll called Bianca who he genuinely believes to be real.

Although unable to explain the reasoning behind his bizarre behaviour, Gus, Karin and the rest of the community eventually decide to play along with the delusion in part sympathy and part support of Lars.

While some scenes successfully recreate a sickly sweetness only usually achieved after gorging yourself, pre-title sequence, on a £5 bag of low grade pic’n’mix, it’s difficult not to develop a fondness for Nancy Oliver’s quirky heart warmer that is also surprisingly touching.

Boasting a cast full of immaculate performances, it is quite rightfully Gosling who steals the show as he deftly captures the subtle changes in Lars’ character during his emotional journey.

David Torn’s minimalist assortment of piano and strings also provides a memorable yet unobtrusive accompaniment to Adam Kimmel’s intimate cinematography, whilst carefully managing to avoid the pitfall of try hard indie-schmindie music that seem increasingly popular in box office favourites such as teenage pregnancy saga Juno.

While Oliver’s characters and their relationships are all together believable, her discussion of mental illness appears disappointingly rose tinted at times. Instead of being forced into further seclusion by ridicule, rejection or stigma, Lars’ delusion becomes the toast of the town as his condition is wholeheartedly embraced by every member of the community.

While seeming a little too far from the realms of reality it’s useful to assume that Oliver is demonstrating the ideal approach to mental illness and with one in four people experiencing some kind of mental health issue during the course of their lifetime, inclusion, acceptance and an open mind is perhaps the best treatment of all.

Review by Mhairi MacLeod

Lars and the Real Girl opens at Edinburgh’s Cameo Cinema on Friday 21 March, see website for times.

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One Response to “Film Review: Lars and the Real Girl, from 21 March, Cameo Cinema”

  1. patrick 24 April, 2008 at 4:21 pm #

    just saw Lars and the Real Girl, Gosling did a great job playing out his character’s psychological transition from totally dysfunctional to somewhat functional; it was nice of them to leave out the predictable small-town drama as well

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