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Ryan Gosling
Emily Mortimer
Patricia Clarkson
Paul Schneider.
Craig Gillespie.
Nancy Oliver.
Running Time
106 minutes

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Lars And The Real Girl
Boy meets doll

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Pathologically shy guy Lars (Gosling) introduces his new ‘girlfriend’ Bianca, a lifelike plastic doll, to his sister-in-law Karin (Mortimer) and brother Gus (Schneider). Somewhat concerned, they decide to call in psychologist Dagmar (Clarkson)...

Lars And The Real Girl

Blow-up sex dolls are horrible, creepy creations. Exponentially worse are ‘Real Dolls’, the lifelike mannequins that advertise their stain-resistant surfaces (“Nothing sticks to silicone flesh!” claims one manufacturer) in queasy detail on dodgy websites. The prospect of an indie rom-com about a man’s love affair with one such fake female sounds icky, but, surprisingly, under the grubby covers lies a warm, rather sweet film.

Ryan Gosling, in another turn of utter conviction, is Lars, a buttoned-down loner who looks like he could, at any moment, snatch a gun and go on the rampage against family - gruff brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and pregnant, glowing sister-in-law Karin (Emily Mortimer) - and co-workers. Yet it’s not psychosis underneath Lars’ skittishness, but loneliness: he makes an effort to greet his receptionist each morning, but scurries in terror from a party invite that follows.

What prompts Lars to acquire his new ‘girlfriend’ isn’t made explicit. A workmate draws his attention to the Real Girl website, but it’s the tentative flirting of new office girl Margo (Kelli Garner) that seems the catalyst for Lars’ acquisition of a ‘lady’. Thus arrives Bianca, a fully functional sex doll dressed in fishnets and miniskirt. Or, as Lars sees her, a wheelchair-bound former missionary who he met on a dating site. And to sidestep the distastefulness of Bianca’s origins, the Christian ‘couple’ sleep in separate rooms and keep their relationship chaste. That may be a cop-out, but it’s essential to the rest of the film’s tone.

What follows is a story about the power of illusion to cure our ills. By loving Bianca, and building her a personality, Lars is clearly delusional - but his delusion allows him to function in a way that he never could before. Gradually, he takes steps towards dealing with others, attending family dinners and even parties - all at Bianca’s ‘request’.

The less convincing, fantastical part of the story is the way that the entire town reacts to his new squeeze. At the behest of Lars’ therapist (Patricia Clarkson) and family, the community doesn’t challenge his belief in Bianca’s reality, since it could worsen Lars’ illness. But they go further, actively embracing Bianca’s presence to surreal effect - she ‘volunteers’ as a shop mannequin, and reads to kids (via a tape recorder) at the hospital. As her role grows, Lars has to deal with jealousy and allow his ‘girlfriend’ a measure of freedom, forcing on his development as well. It’s unbelievable (not one teen shouting abuse at the weirdo with the doll?), but it’s an appealing fantasy, hinting that it takes a town to heal a loner.

The supporting cast, especially the bubbly Mortimer, are all excellent, but it’s the Scandinavian feel created by director Craig Gillespie (the same man who brought us the awful Mr. Woodcock in the same year) and cinematographer Adam Kimmel that lingers longest. Under a perpetually cloudy sky, Lars’ struggle to change, and his newfound hope at Bianca’s arrival, are oddly convincing - you too may be sucked into his reality. In the bright light of a more Hollywood sun, such a delicate love story could never have survived.

A strangely affecting romance with real heart — and another sign that Gosling is one of the best young actors around.

Reviewed by Helen O'Hara

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Lars And The Real Girl
Empire Star Rating


What a great little movie this is. A brilliant performace from Gosling and the rest of the cast aswell. really moving and touching. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Coyleone at 03:07, 28 October 2011 | Report This Post


I lived in a Northern Canadian town just like this one for over a year and it is amazing how the townsfolk rally round each other. My Ukrainian wife also drew parallels with her home town. So the premise is accurate, to a certain extent. But that is not it. The relationships (or lack of, In Lars' case) are beautifully drawn and the performances superlative. A fantastic little experience. Loved it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by laughingChrisCS at 13:43, 08 July 2009 | Report This Post

Lars is Weird

Funny, touching, moving, but still a movie about a guy who develops an attachment to a sex doll. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 00:48, 03 July 2008 | Report This Post

Lars is the real girl

Well, I have to say that I strongly agree with Empire's review. "Lars and the Real Girl" is a powerful and touching drama that should teaches a lesson about the acceptance of different human conditions inside a comunity. In my point of view, Bianca is the Lars that Lars never wanted to be but in fact is. Confusing? Not much. Just watch the movie and enjoy a very swell time. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by fifeco at 19:06, 16 May 2008 | Report This Post

I finally got to see this little gem of a movie at the electric in birmingham. It has brillaintly tempered performances, Gosling obviously further prving his skill but Paul Schneider and Emily Mortimer proving exceptional as well. You even start to feel for Bianca midway through the film, however it is hard to believe everybody would be so accepting of the circumstance. So if you can suspend your disbelief and a bit you'll find a warm, kind-hearted, funny film =) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by cluesy at 17:37, 22 April 2008 | Report This Post

RE: review

L: vb/tim i disagree with helen, it is lars sister-in-law's pregnancy that leads to his delusions, his fear of loving someone who could leave him (as his 3 family members have in different ways) that results in him loving a permanent fixture(the doll). this is a very well acted/directed film. gosling will be a true great if he follows the right path this is my first post, hello to you all sp; I think you're spot on about the pregnancy thing, isn't there a point in the do... More

Posted by Papa Jeff at 17:37, 14 April 2008 | Report This Post


One of the most clever and beautiful films produced this year; Like Lightfoot I thought it was a stupid idea and I couldn't believe how beautiful it actually was ... More

Posted by valo03 at 12:01, 09 April 2008 | Report This Post


A really touching and heartfelt film. Sure the way the town rallys around Lars is unrealistic as is the fact that no-one openly mocks him but that's not what the film is about. It's about friendship and people needing each other and that's what makes the film work. 4/5 ... More

Posted by Timon at 10:21, 09 April 2008 | Report This Post

despite tremendous performances, the film is impossible to truly believe and the predictable nature of the film against the clever script give it a contradicting feel of sickliness and heartfelt. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by shawshank prisoner at 19:09, 07 April 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Amazing

I absolutely adored this film, most definitely the best thing I've seen this year. Funny and deeply touching (cried both times I've seen it), with Gosling turning in yet ent performance. Shot right into my Top 10 Films of All Time. 5/5. ... More

Posted by Filmfan 2 at 20:23, 06 April 2008 | Report This Post


It's such a beautiful film, really touches you and I'd never thought I'd say about a film about a sex doll, it's not just about that, it's about community as well, The acting is superb all the cast are great, and Ryan Gosling wow, not to give you anything away but the way he acts with the doll is beautiful and brings tears to your eyes. Kelli Garner is also superb as Margo and a fantastic charcther actress ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by raven_girl at 12:34, 06 April 2008 | Report This Post


I couldn't get past the fact that the entire town bending over backwards for a Lars neurosis – no one ever mocking or beating the crap out of Lars for his peculiar fixation . It’s schmaltz cranked to Truman Show levels. Salvation comes from Gosling , the man can act more with his eyes than many an actor can with his whole body. In fact, it's the entire cast that stop the preposterous plot from falling down, and avoid the minefield of bad jokes. Also, why does half the cast look like ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemaniac2 at 13:56, 27 March 2008 | Report This Post


i disagree with helen, it is lars sister-in-law's pregnancy that leads to his delusions, his fear of loving someone who could leave him (as his 3 family members have in different ways) that results in him loving a permanent fixture(the doll). this is a very well acted/directed film. gosling will be a true great if he follows the right path this is my first post, hello to you all ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by vb/tim at 00:03, 22 March 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Lars And The Real Girl.

Loved it. Not an out and out comedy, the film is concerned with Lars rehabilitation into society. Many of the early scenes of Bianca are very very funny, but the tone shifts - expertly so - as the story becomes more of a relationship drama of that between Lars and Bianca and the townspeople. That the audience can treat Bianca as a real person by the end is remarkable. ... More

Posted by thedrin at 15:37, 21 March 2008 | Report This Post

Lars And The Real Girl.

It's the funniest film in years. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by nc_jj at 01:57, 16 March 2008 | Report This Post

RE: super film

This film caught me off guard, completely. It DOES sound like a bad idea, but the film is much more clever than its premise might lead you to think. It's a beautifully scripted and directed film and Gosling is just perfect. Watch it for a stellar turn from Emily Mortimer as well. ... More

Posted by kasper_t at 12:12, 15 March 2008 | Report This Post

RE: super film

This looks like the stupidest film idea in a long time. I'll reserve judgement at this point. ... More

Posted by Lightfoot at 08:33, 12 March 2008 | Report This Post

super film

this is such a good film, saw it the other day. feels odd how you can feel emotion for a doll but the film works, showing how people can pull together and help out with one mans illness. Ryan Goslings performance is absolutley superb! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by clarkeycats at 20:48, 11 March 2008 | Report This Post

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