Lars and the Real Girl

A young man sits on an armchair holding a bouquet of flowers
Lars and the Real Girl – original poster

Lars and the Real Girl” was intriguing, a kind of treatise and/or metaphor on how someone can be healed when in deep, debilitating pain. Lars, probably Asperger’s, whose mother had died at his birth (I think) cannot stand to be touched socially or physically, but yearns for connection. He buys a blow-up doll, and treats it as a real girl, introducing “her” to his brother and sister-in-law, and eventually almost everyone he knows in his small rural-appearing town.

The movie is also a paean to the power of women to heal. From Lars’s sister-in-law’s attempts to include him, to the knitting and embroidering churchwomen’s insistence that people respect Lars’s delusion, to the wise therapist who gets Lars telling her about “Bianca”, women have the leadership in allowing Lars to work through his pain-filled needs. Men take part in supporting Lars as he works through his necessary delusion, and we see Lars’s brother go through personal realizations and growth, but it is always women who take the first steps in helping Lars.

The movie also shows Lars as active in his healing. From the first (unconscious) step of allowing himself to have a delusion, to his ongoing descriptions of who Bianca is and his “conversations” with her, he is creating the narrative he needs to escape his psychological imprisonment. The backstory of Lars’s childhood with a “broken-hearted” father and an older brother who escaped the grieving household as soon as he could, suggests that, as a child, Lars had little in the way of intimate mirroring relationships.

Lars had a supportive community with his brother and sister-in-law, and his church and his workplace, and it was their acceptance of his delusion that ultimately allowed Lars to heal. In a way, this is a version of the African proverb that it takes a villiage to raise a child; in this case, it took a village to heal Lars.

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