I, Thou, and Lars and the Real Girl

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What does it mean to be healthy?

If I told you that Lars and the Real Girl, is a film about how a wounded and fragile man finds healing through his relationship with an inflatable sex doll, I would be telling you the truth. (And, perhaps conjuring up images in your mind of some sort of bizarre fetish erotica…) I’d also be telling you almost nothing about the wonder, innocence, beauty, and truth that is this small, quirky movie.

What does it mean to be healthy, whole, or sane? How can we find, or help those around us find, a way out of the pain of our lives and into a place of hope? What does it mean to care for one another? What does it mean to be in relationship: with others, ourselves, and reality?

Or, for that matter, how do we answer the ancient question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Lars and the Real Girl asks all these questions and many more in surprising, disarming, hilarious, and beautiful ways.

It is a story of two brothers, one who very clearly appears to be broken and the other who seems to have himself put together. But things are not always what they seem.

It is also a story that asks us to consider what might happen if we truly were a community of love and acceptance for one another, even (and especially) when that is hard and strange.

20th Century Jewish philosopher Martin Buber famously posited that the fundamental reality of human experience is the I and Thou relationship, and our aching at the lack of that experience. He suggested that we are only truly human in the midst of the intense gaze of the I and Thou encounter. Lars and the Real Girl whimsically explores the power of this claim.

It is funny, touching, bizarre and, yet somehow familiar.