If people were nice, they’d be more like the characters in this film. Ok, so there’s a bit of a ‘what-if’ element here (which you will see much better explained by the writer in the Extras section) because, yes, everyone chips in with the fantasy that Bianca’s real and no-one breaks the taboo, victimises Lars or any of the other horrible things that would probably happen in real life.
But, if you remember that the writer was trying to explore what might happen if we could help people work through mental issues by supporting them, it makes a whole heap more sense. You might still have to suspend your disbelief a little (what would happen if more than one person had a problem at the same time, for instance?) and it could help you to understand that the northern European emigrants that make up much of the community tend to have a slightly different outlook than in some other parts of the US. If you are familiar with the works of Garrison Keillor or even if you’ve seen Fargo, then these gentle, caring but a bit off-kilter character types shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise or be particularly unbelievable.
Fine performances throughout, some beautiful warmth, understanding and humanity, especially from the fine, if underrated, Patricia Clarkson. Oh, and it’s funny too.
It’s not ashamed to be a heart-warming film, so don’t be afraid to let yourself warm to it.