As my class discussed Frankenstein and A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, we discussed the question posed earlier on in Speilberg’s film—Could you get a person to love a robot? I pointed out to them how subversive that question becomes in Speilberg’s film because he casts Haley Joel Osment as this advanced child robot who constantlypulls at the heart-strings of the audience. Most agreed how difficult it was to watch the scene where his mother deserts him in the forest, and when he cries, the audience does also.
In our discussions, I talked about BBC America’s Love Me, Love My Doll, which some of the kids had seen. Guys and dolls also deals with the same subject.
That led to our consideration of Lars and the Real Girl, which I knew only by the trailer. Some of my students watched the film and were surprised at how touched they were.
Lars, played with understated pathos by Ryan Gosling, is so shy, yet so endearing, the people of his small town all seem to care for him. Lars has never coped with his parents’ deaths. He lives in the garage while his brother and pregnant sister-in-law live in the former family home.
One day a co-worker tells him about life-size sex-dolls which leads him to order his own built to order, Bianca. When Bianca arrives, Lars reaches out to others for the first time.
Dagmar, the local doctor, played with great sensitivity by Patricia Clarkson, suggests that the best way to help Lars is to accept Bianca. She “treats” Bianca. Others invite her to join them. She “reads” at the local school. A beauty operator fixes her hair. Several times a week she “volunteers” at the hospital. She is even accepted at church.
As people accept Lars and Bianca, he begins to relate more and more to the people around him, until finally he does find a real girl and finds he has to let Bianca go. That moment becomes surprisingly poignant and Lars moves into the adult world he has rejected for so long.
The film is well worth putting on your Netflix list… and then let me know when you see it.