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Learning from Lars

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In honor of Valentines day, I’m re-posting a blog from a few years ago. As you celebrate love, take a few moments to think about what it truly means to love those around us, and seize the opportunity to Learn form Lars. Lars and the Real Girl is, in my opinion one of the best best love stories found outside the Bible. Here’s why I think so:

I want to give a shout out for Lars and the Real Girl, an unusual but very sweet and endearing movie about the need for community, physical touch, and true, compassionate love. It’s also peppered with a bit of Napoleon Dynamite-style humor, though not to the extreme. Don’t be scared away by the basic description: Lars orders a life-size doll and is convinced that she is his real, live girlfriend. Strange? Yes. Raunchy? Absolutely not. For a plot that has potential to go south fast, Lars and the Real Girl keeps it clean and honest. It’s all part of the movie’s commentary on true, authentic love. I think we can all relate to Lars on some levels, and we can all learn from him and his rather unusual ‘girlfriend,’ Bianca.

Lars loves people.
He just has a funny way of showing it. We see this from the very opening scene when he gives his sister-in-law, Karen, his blanket to keep her warm on the short walk home. He’s afraid of interaction with people, but that does not mean he doesn’t love them. Karen doesn’t understand him and thinks she has something against her, but over the course of the movie, she learns that love does not look the same to everyone.

Physical touch hurts Lars. He equates it to the burning sensation you feel when you’ve been outside in the cold and come back in where it’s warm. He wears layers to help protect him from the pain of physical touch. Lars’ strange ‘condition’ is a commentary on the pain involved in love. By locking himself in his own world he has indeed become ‘cold,’ and as he begins to interact with others, he is stripping off some of his layers and beginning to expose himself. If we are to love authentically, we will have to do the same, and chances are, it just might hurt.

Bianca used to be a missionary. Lars says she is on sabbatical to experience the world, but what he does not realize is that she is still a missionary, actually helping him to experience the world. Bianca brings a message of love both to Lars and to his entire community. She gives Lars the confidence he lacks to begin to interact with his family and his friends from work. And she helps the community — especially Karen and Gus — understand that loving someone means accepting them as they are, and not trying to change them. At the end, the pastor calls her a ‘teacher,’ and a ‘lesson in courage,’ and he is right, because true love, the kind that Lars, Gus, and Karen all learn about, takes an incredible amount of courage.

Lars love for Bianca is genuine. He does not use her, as one might expect a man would use an attractive, life-size doll. In fact, Lars never touches Bianca romantically, save a sweet and simple kiss near the end. To Lars, commitment supersedes anything physical in a relationship. He knows that Bianca is committed to him, and that’s enough. Even when Bianca is unsure about his marriage proposal, he stands by the belief that “a man doesn’t cheat on his woman.” Some of the most endearing scenes are when Lars waits nervously at Bianca’s weekly doctor appointments, when he sings to her at the lake, and when he reads aloud to her. Lars gives of his time and affection out of genuine love, not a desire to get something in return.

Sometimes it’s just about having the presence of another person. In the words of the women from the community, “that’s what people do in times of crisis. They come over and sit.”

Gus tells Lars that you know you are grown up when you decide to do what’s right for everyone else, even if it is not what you want. Ironically, I think that Gus learns this more than anyone. He has to overcome his embarrassment to do what’s right and love his brother unconditionally. And we know that Lars has learned this at the end of the movie when he finally lets Bianca go. He has discovered the hardest thing about love: sometimes it means that we sacrifice that which is most dear to us. I think that Lars sacrifices Bianca because he has grown up, in Gus’ definition of the term. Lars realizes that, while love involves sacrifice, it also does not demand it of others. He cannot show genuine love to those who love him as long as Bianca is in the way and so, he gives her up.

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Written by liferenewed

February 14, 2011 at 5:49 am

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