Story

Lars (Ryan Gosling) is a quiet, caring and extremely socially anxious young man. He lives in the garage of the family home in small-town America. His older brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and Gus’ pregnant wife Karin (Emily Mortimer) have lived in the family home since Lars and Gus’ father died. Gus and Karin continually try and fail to take Lars out of his limited and seemingly lonely existence.

To their surprise and delight, Lars announces that he has a new girlfriend called Bianca, a half-Danish, half-Brazilian former missionary. Their delight quickly turns to dismay and horror when they discover that Bianca is in fact a purchased sex doll. Lars cannot see Bianca as anything but real. In their desperation to understand what has triggered Lars’ ‘breakdown’, Gus and Karin visit local doctor Dr Dagmar Berman (Patricia Clarkson). Dr Berman explains that Lars is suffering from a delusion and advises them to support him in his delusional beliefs.

While Dr Berman engages in weekly therapy sessions ‘for Bianca’ with Lars, his brother and sister-in-law set about enlisting the help of Lars’ church group and work friends in understanding his relationship with Bianca. To their surprise, the townsfolk readily accept the challenge and draw Lars and Bianca increasingly into their community. As the issues that triggered Lars’ breakdown are slowly uncovered, Lars himself recognises his desire for and pleasure in human contact and relationships.

Themes

Coping with mental illness; the consequences of loss; abandonment and isolation.

Violence

None of concern

Content that may disturb children

Under 8

  • Some children might find Lars’ (and others’) interactions with the clearly inanimate doll disturbing.
  • Lars has a panic attack during one of his sessions with Dr Berman. He is clearly upset, but Dr Berman is able to talk him through it and he calms down.
  • Margot, Lars’ friend at work, has a teddy bear at her desk. After a series of escalating pranks with another work colleague, Margot finds the bear with a noose around its neck. The other work colleague taunts Margot further by saying that the bear is dead. Margot is very upset by this. Lars comforts Margot by performing CPR on the bear and ‘resuscitating’ it.
  • Lars finds Bianca ‘unconscious’ one morning. He screams out to Gus and Karin for help and the ambulance is called. At the hospital, Lars and Dr Berman believe that Bianca is dying. Lars is shown to be very distressed about this.

From 8-13

Some children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes described above.

Over 13

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Sexual references

  • Lars shares his work desk with another colleague, who looks at sex doll sites on the internet. He tells Lars that the dolls are ‘anatomically correct’.
  • Karin briefly checks if Bianca is in fact ‘anatomically correct’. Her shocked facial expression provides the answer.
  • Lars asks Gus about how he knew he was a man. Gus gives the predictable answer of ‘sex?’, then goes on to describe what an honourable man is.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

  • Lars has a beer at a party.
  • After being introduced to Bianca, a party guest states that she ‘needs wine’.
  • People drink at the party, but no-one is shown as intoxicated.

Nudity and sexual activity

None

Product placement

None

Coarse language

This movie contains some mild coarse language.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Lars and the Real Girl is a comedy drama telling the sweet but strange tale of a shy, introverted and troubled man. After falling in love with a life-size doll, he finds himself and rediscovers the love of his family and community.

Children might find this storyline challenging and the quiet tone, pace and humour of the movie dull. Older adolescents and adults might appreciate the quirky tone, the frequent humour of the unusual subject matter, and the often moving manner in which relationships develop and sorrows are uncovered.

You might like to talk about some of the values in this movie:

  • good, nurturing family relationships
  • true friendship and community spirit in good and bad times
  • compassion and understanding.
  • not being judgemental.

You could also talk about some of the other important issues of loss and grief and the impact this has on families, and loneliness and isolation.