Home Culture & Wellness Mental Health in Movies: Lars and the Real Girl

Mental Health in Movies: Lars and the Real Girl


Written by Joyelle Ronan

A movie about a man falling in love with a sex doll doesn’t sound overly endearing. In fact, I avoided watching Lars and the Real Girl for years for that very reason. I couldn’t imagine that a film with such a seamingly kinky premise could actually be an innocent, beautiful, and romantic story about mental illness acceptance. 

Ryan Gosling, romantic king, plays Lars. A departure from Gosling’s usual roles, Lars is painfully shy and socially inept. He struggles to speak to women, even those who are interested in him. However, things take a turn for Lars when he decides to order Biance, a sex doll, off of the internet. 

Lars behaves as though Bianca is a real woman. She has an elaborate backstory as a missionary and coincidentally shares many similarities to Lars. Initially, Lars’s brother and sister-in-law are unsure of how to handle the situation. When Bianca has to “go to the doctor,” a psychologist reveals that everyone should play along and treat Bianca as a human woman. 

The town goes above and beyond making Bianca feel at home. She, in a way, becomes the mascot of the town, living a life beyond the one Lars created for her. The people in his life love Lars and support him despite the unconventionality of a man pushing a life sized doll around in a wheelchair. Through Bianca, Lars is able to work through his undealt with trauma and improve his mental health. 

The film is incredibly idealistic, but that is what I love about it. It goes against the stigma. We all have past experiences that we need to work through. Sometimes, we might not even be aware of it. People cope with life in a lot of different ways, some coping being more productive than others. But at the end of the day, we should support the people we love through whatever mental illness they may face.

Read up on anxiety, depression, or any problem your loved one is struggling with. Especially if you have never experienced it yourself, understanding is a big part of acceptance. Having support during difficult times is crucial to recovery but it can be hard for people who are hurting to reach out. Help those you love by simply being a consistent and compassionate figure in their lives. You can never go wrong with a little empathy!    

Check out Lars and the Real Girl (2007) on HBO Max.