...more telly during this week than usual (I usually don't watch TV at all), mostly because I can not use my personal computer these days (the HDD is gone and I may or may not lose some pictures, saved games and other stuff, entirely due to me being lazy about regularly backing it up) to play my favourite computer game, and because I was in between books.
Last night, I happened to come across a movie that had already started; the first 15 minutes or so were over by the time I got there. What I saw was a youngish man sitting next to a life-size, life-like doll (the kind that is sold as sex doll) at the dinner table, and another man and woman (both real, not dolls) sitting opposite. They were eating, and talking, and it quickly transpired from the conversation that the man with the doll was firmly convinced that the doll was a real woman, while the couple (obviously close friends or relatives to him) were, for some as yet unknown to me reason, playing along with him, also acting as if the doll was real.
This bit I found intriguing enough to stay on that channel and watch the whole movie, which was "Lars and the Real Girl" from 2007, starring Ryan Goslin, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider, Kelli Garner, Patricia Clarkson, many other people and, of course, a "Real Doll" (as they are really called).
I had not known of or heard about this movie before, and so I had no idea what it really was about. Instead, for a long time I was waiting for the doll actually coming to life - do you remember the 80s movie in which a shop mannequin comes alive? Or "Splash", also from the 80s, which features Daryl Hannah as a real mermaid? There were quite a few such fairytale stories in those days, and although they are all more or less silly, they make for an entertaining two hours or so, and so I thought, why not, and kept watching.
Well, in "Lars and the Real Girl", the doll does not come alive. Never. The young man who is convinced she is his living, breathing girlfriend is the only one who sees her like that; to everyone else, she is just a doll. At least to begin with.
Lars is a bit of a loner and has problems with social interactions; at home, at work, and at the church he regularly attends. As the story develops, we learn that these problems stem from an unhappy childhood. Lars has reached a point where nobody can even touch him - literally. It hurts him, he says, as when you've been out in the cold for too long and your frozen limbs slowly warm up again.
Because Lars has become so delusional about "Bianca", and his brother and sister-in-law deeply care about him and worry about his mental health, they agree to atheir doctor's suggestion to play along with it, pretending to welcome Lars' "girlfriend" into the family. Bianca gets to sleep in the guest room; her inability to move on her own is explained by Lars with an illness and very low blood pressure, and she is taken around in a wheel chair all day. Because of her "illness", Lars and Bianca go to see the doctor (played by the wonderful and wonderfully beautiful Patricia Clarkson) regularly, and while Bianca has to "rest" after her "treatment", the doctor talks to Lars, trying to get to the root of the problem.
In their day to day lives, Lars works at an office where a young woman is clearly interested in him. He shies away from her, and yet it bothers him when eventually she has a boyfriend. Lars' brother and sister-in-law are going to have their first child, and their daily and weekly routine quickly incorporates Bianca, as it would if she was a real human being with special needs. She is washed and clothed, "fed", taken out for shopping and to church, and put to bed like a child at night.
The small town community soon adopt her for Lars' sake, who introduces the doll to everyone as his girlfriend. They welcome the couple at church with a bunch of flowers for Bianca, and they even take her out for some volunteer work such as reading to a group of children, or for a haircut at the beauty salon.
Nobody has any idea where it is all going to lead, and, frankly, I found it at times rather too unrealistic how everybody rallies round and joins the pretend play. In all communities, no matter how big or small, there is bound to be someone who won't do what everybody else sees as the decent thing to do, and I would have expected Lars and Bianca to be ridiculed by some people.
Eventually, through all the interactions brought on through Bianca with his neighbours, co-workers and church members, Lars becomes less of a loner and his social interactions less awkward.
How he finds his way back into the real world, where dolls are just dolls and neither can nor should replace human friends, I won't tell you here, because it would mean to spoil it for you, should you decide to watch the movie yourself.
It is a rather sweet story about friendship and love, in the family and out, and worth watching, I think.
The season and the weather are used as dramatic devices. When the story begins, it is winter, with deep snow everywhere, and people all dressed in heavy coats and woolly hats, scarves and gloves. With the unfolding of events, there is a subtle change in the weather, even a day or two of thawing, before frost hits again and it snows once more. However, the film ends with the first fine days of warmer weather and a promise of spring and better times to come. All this is subtly related to what happens with Lars and Bianca and Lars' colleague.
If you happen to come across it somewhere, maybe you'll see what I mean.