Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lars and the Real Girl

For those of you who came to last night’s class on spirituality and film, I hope you enjoyed Lars and the Real Girl. Over the next few weeks, we plan to screen several films that are off the beaten path. Independent cinema offers a voice not heard in mainstream Hollywood. It can be the best place to find spiritual films. Perhaps independent filmmakers have more creative freedom and expression than their mainstream counterparts in Hollywood.

It does require some effort and time to discover these “little” films that often get overlooked. But it’s worth the journey. All that is necessary is a little discernment and a taste for the unusualness and quirkiness of life, which we all possess.

I’ve seen Lars and the Real Girl several times, and with each viewing I discover something new, which is usually a sign of a great film. This is a beautifully made film. Filmmaking can be a difficult process, but when everything comes together, you have magic. In the case of Lars and the Real Girl, we have a director with a clear vision, a writer who has written a powerful screenplay, and the right actors who have been appropriately casted for difficult parts. Plus, the cinematography is first class.

I find it interesting when writers choose quirky little Midwestern towns in the dead of winter for their backdrop. The filmmakers are successful in making the town an intricate character in the story. But the most enduring elements of the film are sense of community, acceptance, love and kindness. Lars and the Real Girl is a spiritual film because of its reflection of what a true Christian community should be. I’m not sure that’s what the filmmakers had in mind, but that’s what they’ve created.

The film is a reflection of I John 3:18, which says, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” The town folks of Lars and the Real Girl are challenged to put their faith and love in action. In other words, it’s a practical application of what they believe. What we have here is another example of a “Christian” film that’s not a Christian film. If you are interested in making movies from a faith-based perspective, I highly recommend that you take a look at this film from several different angles to break down each element and discover why it works.

Here’s a quick synopsis. Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling) is a lonely, shy and socially inept young man living in the converted garage behind the house of his brother and sister-in-law. Lars develops a relationship with a life-like doll that is anatomically correct, which he orders on-line from an adult website. I know it sounds creepy, but this is a case where the content makes complete sense in terms of the context of the film. So don’t freak out. Lars has detached from reality and is convinced that Bianca (the life-sized doll) is a real person. In fact, she is a wheelchair-bound missionary from Brazil.

Lars’ brother, Gus, and sister-in-law, Karin, convince Lars to take Bianca to see the family doctor, who is also a psychologist. Her diagnosis is that this is a delusion of Lars own creation and urges Gus and Karen to treat Bianca as if she is a real person.

So how do Gus and Karin handle the situation? How will the church they regularly attend react? What about the townsfolk’s? Will they go along? Can anybody help Lars?

For some, this plot may seem preposterous and implausible. But somewhere along the way, the filmmakers find the divine that exists in each of us through God’s grace and love. It’s a clear question of how far we are willing to go in reaching out to people in need even those different from us. Can we get out of our comfort zone? We, as Christians, love the idea of Christianity and often practice our faith as theory. But, at times, we have difficulty in putting it into action. Without action or deed, our faith really doesn’t mean anything.

We find in Lars and the Real Girl the real Christian community we all hope for—unconditional love, acceptance and redemption. How can we make our current Christian community reflect a true Biblical community? How can I reach out in love to people that I don’t understand and find different than me? Am I willing to go the distance no matter the personal cost, including looking ridiculous.

Like Lars, on some level, we have all disconnected perhaps from God and each other. How can we find our way back? What was Lars turning point? Is there something from Lars and the Real Girl that I can apply to my personal life? Let’s start a discussion. I want to hear what you think.


  1. One of the most powerful moments of this film for me was the moment when Gus and Karin were in the doctor's office and wanted to know what they had to do. They start to realize that the doctor wants to play along. I could see the internal struggle, the realization that life isn't all pretty little packages and carefully planned out paths. The doctor instructs them that "it's not really a choice".

    I think that's often what happens with us when we are confronted with situations that are calling for us to do the right thing, or do what Christ would guide us to. We struggle with what people would think, how it will inconvenience our lives... ect. ect.

    How would we react if God told us "it's not really a choice". We are called to love others as he would. How do we come to terms with that and allow ourselves to be used? Do we extend our hand of love to others freely?

    (I have another musing about Lars cry for help that I'll post later)

  2. I think the very plot and approach of the film, from an ariel view is redeeming in itself. The filmmakers have taken something inappropriate, unhealthy, or dirty (the sex doll) and redeemed it. The content was redeemed by the context. That's deep.

  3. This is the second time I saw this film and this time I saw a different slant. This may have to do with the fact that a friend of mine, who was a pagan for 20 years and is not a Christian came to the Vineyard to talk about why people choose paganism and how to bring them to Christianity.

    So I see Lars as a guy who knows he is missing something in his life. Lets look at the blow up doll as paganism and the girl at work Christianity. At first Lars does not want the girl at work because she is trying too hard much like christians who beat people over the head with a bible. I goes with the blowup doll becasue there is no pressure and it fills his need for companionship. However this is a false relationship because she is fake. As the girl at work just goes on about her life and stops pressuring Lars, he sees something in her he likes, much like someone looking at a person living a christian life wanting what he has.

    At this point Lars is seeing faults with his blowup doll to the point he lets is die and begins to accept the possibility of a relationship with the girl at work much like my friend dropped paganism and is strongly persuing Christianity.

    Or this could all be the pizza I had for dinner

    Chuck Maney

  4. The girl is now not not a christian