Unsure how to react when Lars tells them she’s of Brazilian and Danish stock, a paraplegic and very religious, his brother and sister-in-law (Paul Schneider, Emily Mortimer) put up ‘Bianca’ in their spare room and seek the advice of a therapist (Patricia Clarkson), who reckons they should go with the flow and let Lars work through his… issues.
So, a story about a man and his sex-doll played not for snide laughter but as a touching fable on the restorative powers of human affection. That’s certainly an unexpected combination, and writer Nancy Oliver (‘Six Feet Under’) was Oscar-nominated for her screenplay, recognition for the way this tall tale holds its nerve and stands up for thinking the best of people.
Arguably, it works better as an idea than it does on screen, where Gosling’s man-child performance flirts with tweeness and the willingness of the whole community to go along with the ruse tests basic credibility. Still, if it’s more satisfying as a conceit than a story, that’s not to deny Schneider and Mortimer’s splendidly sympathetic work as caring, quizzically willing accomplices, and the grace with which the film avoids the fnarr-fnarr overtones that might break its delicate spell. Not entirely successful then but admirably original.