Lars and the Real Girl shows the power of the visual medium to tell a theological story. I not only felt that I knew Lars, but that I knew myself through his fear of the tangles of relationship, his anxiety about the need to be transformed, and his desire to put transformation off as long as possible.
When a summer film grosses over $48 million in its first week of wide release, we can assume that it is glossy and entertaining, perhaps boasting the latest special effects. But when that film has no known actors and costs a mere $30,000 to make—not even a pittance by Hollywood's Titanic standards—something else is going on. The film has hit a nerve.
There was an innocent spirit in the movies that Preston Sturges made during World War II. His comedy was broad and his wit could be cutting, but at their core his films recall a time when we thought we had reason to be optimistic about the innate goodness of the human spirit. Sturges’s style did not survive the cynical realism of the postwar era.
As part of the astonishing cinema boom known as Nollywood, some 300 Nigerian producers churn out around 2,000 films each year. Their market of almost 150 million people makes this the world’s third-largest film industry, after Hollywood and the Indian Bollywood. The films go straight to DVD or VCD and sell hundreds of thousands of copies in Nigeria alone, not to mention circulation among the Nigerian disapora in North America and Western Europe. Because videos are passed on from hand to hand, actual viewership is impossible to determine. Explicitly Christian videos make up a large part of the output, which is not surprising when we realize that perhaps 45 percent of Nigerians follow this faith.
By the time the credits began to roll for Lars and the Real Girl, the movie was at the head of my list of top movies of 2007. Writer Nancy Oliver and director Craig Gillespie deliver a sensitive portrait of Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling), a young man so gripped by shyness that the only companion he dares relate to is a life-size silicon doll.