Australian Council on Children and the Media

Lars and the Real Girl

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Not recommended under 8, PG to 13 (Themes, sexual references)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Lars and the Real Girl
  • a review of Lars and the Real Girl completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 8 April 2008.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to themes and lack of interest
Children 8 -13 Parental guidance recommended due to themes and sexual references.
Children 13 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Lars and the Real Girl
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild coarse language, violence and sexual references
Length 106 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Lars (Ryan Gosling) is quiet, caring, but extremely socially anxious young man, living in the garage of the family home in small town America. His older brother, Gus (Paul Schneider) and Gus’ pregnant wife, Karin (Emily Mortimer) have lived in the family home since Lars and Gus’ father died, and they continually attempt, but fail, to take Lars out of his limited and seemingly lonely existence.

To their surprise and delight, Lars announces that he has a new girlfriend called Bianca, a half Danish, half Brazilian former missionary. Their delight quickly turns to dismay and horror when they discover that Bianca is in fact a purchased sex doll. Lars cannot see Bianca as anything but real, and in their desperation to understand what has triggered Lars’ ‘breakdown’, Gus and Karin visit local doctor, Dr Dagmar Berman (Patricia Clarkson). Dr Berman explains that Lars is suffering from a delusion and advises them, that rather than confronting Lars, the family should support him with his delusional beliefs.

While Dr. Berman engages in weekly therapy sessions ‘for Bianca’ with Lars, his brother and sister-in-law set about enlisting the help of Lars’ church group and work friends in understanding his relationship with Bianca. To their surprise, the townsfolk readily accept the challenge and draw Lars and Bianca increasingly into their community. As the issues that triggered Lars’ breakdown are slowly uncovered, Lars himself recognises his desire for, and pleasure in, human contact and relationships.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Coping with mental illness; the consequences of loss; abandonment and isolation.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

None of concern

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under five, including the following:

  • Some children may find Lars’ (and other’s) interactions with the clearly inanimate doll disturbing.
  • Lars has a panic attack during one of his sessions with Dr Berman. He is clearly upset, but Dr Berman is able to talk him through it and he calms down.
  • Lars’ friend at work, Margot has a teddy bear at her desk. After a series of escalating pranks with another work colleague, Margot finds the bear with a noose around its neck. The other work colleague taunts Margot further by saying that the bear is dead. Margot is very upset by this. Lars comforts Margot by performing CPR on the bear and ‘resuscitating’ it.
  • Lars finds Bianca ‘unconscious’ one morning. He screams out to Gus and Karin for help and the ambulance is called. At the hospital, Lars and Dr Berman believe that Bianca is dying. Lars is shown to be very distressed about this

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Some children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the scenes described above.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Lars shares his work desk with another colleague, who is shown to be looking at sex doll sites on the internet. He tells Lars that the dolls are ‘anatomically correct’.
  • Karin is shown to briefly check if Bianca is in fact ‘anatomically correct’. Her shocked facial expression provides the answer.
  • Lars asks Gus about how he knew he was a man. Gus gives the predictable answer of ‘sex?’, then goes on to describe what an honourable man is.

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Lars has a beer at a party.
  • After being introduced to Bianca, a party guest states that she ‘needs wine”.
  • People drink at the party, but no one is shown as intoxicated.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • damn, ‘God’, kick your butt.

In a nutshell

Lars and the Real Girl is a comedy drama telling the sweet but strange tale of a shy, introverted and troubled man, who after falling in love with a lifesize doll, finds himself and rediscovers the love of his family and community. Children may find this storyline challenging and the quiet tone, pace and humour of the movie dull. Older adolescents and adults may appreciate the quirky tone, the frequent humour of the unusual subject matter, and the often moving manner in which relationships develop and sorrows are uncovered.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include the importance of:

  • good, nurturing family relationships
  • true friendship and community spirit in good and bad times
  • compassion and understanding.
  • not being judgemental

 This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • loss and grief – the impact on families
  • loneliness and isolation

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