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‘Air Doll’ review: Finding humanity with a sex doll

A risky trade.

Air Doll is a fantasy movie that was released in Japan in 2009 and has finally made its way to the United States. Taking place in present day Tokyo, the plot follows an inflatable sex doll (Bae Doona) that has grown a consciousness and a heart. She begins to wander the city and learns what it is to be human. Some will argue this is a case of style over substance. Movies exploring the human condition were not a new thing even in 2009. Even using sex dolls as main characters was not a novel idea. And there is not denying that Air Doll has a great look and tone to it. 

The movie is a patient one that is as much about its surroundings as it is the actual story. Many times, Air Doll pushes the limits of being “too artsy” before reigning things back in. There is little explanation was to why the doll has come to life and things move at a languid pace even though there is not much of a story to tell. It would be very easy to lose patience with it.

Ever since it first premiered, this has been one of the major criticisms of Air Doll. Despite running almost two hours, there is little to the plot. Doona turns in a fantastic performance, but the rest of the characters are just fleeting participants in what amounts to sketches. Even the other members of the love triangle she eventually gets caught up in are little more than caricatures.

'Air Doll' review: Finding humanity with a sex doll

It is clear that the story is more of a formality than anything else. Director Hirokazu-Kore-eda is concerned with getting a mood across. Air Doll is a beautiful movie that allows the audience to get drawn into the moment. The movie is lonely, heartbreaking, and hopeful. Though the plot is unmemorable, it is still an emotional tale that will resonate. It is a risky trade off that will not work for everyone.

Air Doll hits U.S. cinemas and digital platforms on February 4

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