Lars and the Real Girl ★★★★

This is a delightful, touching, quirky, low-key, and heartwarming gem of a movie. Director Craig Gillespie, working from a screenplay written by Nancy Oliver, adroitly combines elements of drama, comedy, and tragedy and finds the right balance between the three, which makes for a satisfying end result. The central characters come across as individuals with their own lives and motivations, and the atmosphere feels genuine.

While its premise—a shy, socially inept man strikes up a relationship with a sex doll named Bianca—is admittedly rather bizarre, "Lars and the Real Girl" does not offer any real surprises in terms of where the story is going. That is not much of a problem, however, because the journey is more rewarding than the destination and the interesting stuff lies in the details.

The film explores how Lars’ unconventional relationship with Bianca affects himself, the people around him, and the community in which he lives. In addition to saying that people should be there for and support each other, the movie also suggests that we should accept and perhaps even embrace people’s differences and quirks (within reasonable limits, of course) instead of indiscriminately regarding them as something problematic or negative.

"Lars and the Real Girl" is certainly funny at times, and its moments of subtle humor are at least as good as its more straightforwardly comic situations. Thankfully, the humor does not rely on cheap jokes meant to ridicule the sympathetic main character for his social awkwardness.

One sweet, memorable scene shows heart-lung resuscitation being performed on a teddy bear. The final scene of the movie is beautiful, with the last two lines of dialogue being short and simple and yet so significant.

Ryan Gosling gives a very strong, finely tuned performance in the role of Lars Lindstrom. Lars’ sister-in-law Karin and his brother Gus are convincingly played by Emily Mortimer and Paul Schneider, respectively. Kelli Garner invests her character, Margo, with compassion and a big heart.