For some the story of a man who falls in love with an anatomically correct doll would not make them rush to their local cinema in droves.  Although billed as a comedy, 'Lars and the Real Girl' has so much more to offer, making it one of the sweetest love stories of the year.

Lars (Gosling) is socially inept and insecure. Every encounter, even with loved ones, is full of awkwardness and insecurity. Sharing the home of his brother (Schneider) and expectant sister-in-law (Mortimer), Lars lives his life like a hermit, only leaving the house for work and church.

This all changes when Lars finds a friend in Bianca, a life-sized doll a work colleague has shown him online. The arrival of his new girlfriend gives Lars the confidence to explore outside of his confined settings.  Suddenly he is transformed. His speech improves from bumbling to confident - stories of his new love life transfixing all those he speaks with.

Lars' family are torn between shock and the relief that he is finally coming out of his shell. They recommend he sees a therapist (Clarkson), who plays along with the pretence and acts as a doctor for Bianca after her travels from the missionary in Brazil. By accepting his differences, they feel he may be able to transfer his newfound feelings into a real life relationship with fellow worker Margo (Garner).

Lars grows in confidence, taking Bianca with him to church and work parties. While some scenes are played for laughs - his feeding and dancing with Bianca will have audiences amused - the care and affection he shows her reveal real heart. The bond is purely emotional and a physical relationship is never even considered. Bianca is not a toy, she is his living, breathing dream for a life he has never had and maybe never will

Gosling as usual is brilliant, physically embodying the character with minor subtleties like blinking to express how awkward and how deep his problems lie. His performance is both profound and heartwarming and the audience will be embarrassed by laughing when they see the true feelings Lars has towards his new love. Viewers do have to suspend belief that a town would be so accepting of a man's love for an object but the tenderness that Lars shows towards Bianca wins over the locals and ultimately the audience.

A touching and sweet movie, well-acted, intelligently written and directed. Lars will capture your heart too.

Seán Kavanagh