Saturday, October 31, 2015

Lars and the Real Girl

We so often treat people as problems, and then wonder why they are problematic. In Lars and the Real Girl,we see a community treat a delusional member of their group with love and empathy, and the results are astounding.

At the beginning of the movie, we see a family in church, the minister intoning his sermon from the pulpit, talking about the power of love. Soon into the movie, we see Lars Lindstrom, a socially awkward man at best, bringing a plastic doll to his brother’s house for dinner, introducing her as real, a missionary who “god made to help people.” When the brother and his wife seek guidance from the town doctor, she lets them know that Lars is suffering from a delusion, and that it will persist as long as Lars needs it, counseling them to go along with it as long as the delusion continues to prove useful.

Lars’ sister-in-law takes the courageous leap to follow the doctor’s advice, but even she has difficulty changing her perspective at first. Soon most of the community is on board, and Bianca ends up with girlfriends, volunteering endeavors and even gets elected to the school board. Through all this, Lars is working through his attachment and fear issues, and the fact that Bianca has become a real member of the community provides rich soil for everyone.

Not only does the delusional man end up working through his issues in a way that promotes true healing and growth, but the whole community finds access to exploring themselves and their relationships with each other. An older woman defends Bianca against Lars’ possessiveness, working through some obvious resentment in her own previous relationships; some of the women talk about how gorgeous Bianca’s hair is, and work through their jealousy to find a loving, supportive way to interact with the embodiment of objectified sexual perfection. Even Lars’ brother comes around by the end, checking on Bianca to make sure she is okay before he turns in for the evening.

At the end of the movie, Bianca, the religious, wheelchair-bound missionary is laid to rest. The funeral service includes Reverend Bock saying “Lars asked us not to wear black today. He did so to remind us that this is no ordinary funeral. We are here to celebrate Bianca's extraordinary life. From her wheelchair, Bianca reached out and touched us all, in ways we could never have imagined. She was a teacher. She was a lesson in courage. And Bianca loved us all. Especially Lars. Especially him.”

This begs the question: What if we were to begin treating all the mentally ill in such a fashion? Would those among us who suffer become seen as gifts, opportunities for learning, growth and compassion that would otherwise never be in our lives?