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Lars and the Real Girl


Stars: Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider, Patricia Clarkson, Kelli Garner

Director: Craig Gillespie

Although I would expect this film to be a major critical success, I must admit I had problems with it. Lars (Gosling) is an uncommunicative loner who lives in a small flat next to the garage opposite his brother Gus' (Schneider) house. His pregnant sister-in-law Karin (Mortimer) tries to coax him over for breakfast, but Lars, who feels pain when he's touched, will have none of it.

One morning, a huge oblong box arrives for Lars; he introduces its contents as his new friend, the beautiful, if wheelchaired Bianca. She's a RealGirl, a customised, lifesize, beautiful - doll.

Told by the local quack (Clarkson) to play along, Gus and Karin instal Bianca in the pink room. And the whole of the community, who are fond of the feeble-minded Lars, also play along. Bianca goes to parties, helps at school (she's elected to the board), undergoes 'treatment' at the hospital, has her hair done and sits with Lars in church.

And there's a putative girlfriend for Lars (sweetly played by Garner), who might come into the picture if Bianca were out of it.

Now the problem I have with all this is that Lars is clearly, as the great James Thurber used to put it, as crazy as a jaybird. The film, too, is as loopy as Lars if it believes this could happen, or that there might be a future for him with a 'real' real girl. What Lars needs is real help, not the acquiescent sessions he receives with Dr Clarkson, which become tedious as the film progresses.

Gosling is a good actor, but he can't quite cope with this, even if proceedings often have an uneasy charm, and you sometimes, like Gus and Karin, don't know whether to laugh or cry - or just look away. So - creepy or charming? You choose.

David Quinlan

Canada/USA 2007. UK Distributor: Verve. Colour by deluxe.
106 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 16 Mar 2008