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By Mariko McDonald | August 5, 2012

Meet Davecat. A self-described goth, videogame addict and “synthetiks” advocate. His wife is named Sidore. She is half-Japanese, half-English, loves Hello Kitty and even has her own twitter account. She is also made of silicon.

Taking a refreshingly non-judgmental approach to its subjects and the material in general, The Mechanical Bride is a startling investigation of the world of hyper-realistic love dolls, the people who make them, and the people who love them. Narrated by Julie Newmar, the film features interviews with devotees like Davecat, as well as the manufacturers of the dolls and a variety of scholars, resulting in a surprisingly balanced and thought-provoking study into the far reaches of human desire.

Raising as many questions as it answers, the people director de Fren interviews are often as fascinating in their own right (if not more so) than the subjects she discusses. From unrepentant geeks like Davecat to Bill McCracken, a self-described dirty old man who calls his second-hand doll his “niece” after the tradition for dirty old men with live-in lovers in the old South, the characters on display are so deeply watchable they couldn’t have been written any better. And yet, nothing about their inclusion in the film feels exploitative. Everyone is given just enough rope to hang themselves and yet very few of them do.

Subjects like the taste for younger-looking dolls in Japan, to the fact that over 50% of the employees at Realdoll manufacturer Abyss are women, are all handled in a matter-of-fact way, allowing the viewer to draw their own conclusions. The film bounces around from theme to theme, posing new questions and introducing new characters as it goes. Unfortunately de Fren starts to overcomplicate things in the third act by suddenly bringing in the ASFR ( and robosexuals, who while related to the ideas of inanimate love explored in the earlier parts of the film, represent such a large and diverse system of ideas that they could have warranted their own film altogether.

While certainly related, the amount of time devoted to ASFR in general, versus the amount of time spent with Davecat and his inanimate girlfriend, was unnecessarily jarring and ultimately left the film feeling more thrown together in its later half. A disappointing conclusion to an otherwise fascinating film.

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