Review: Compassion for Companionship in Silicone Soul

To make a film that examines people who have turned silicone companionship into an actual loving relationship seems almost too easy as a way to mock and belittle those who have chosen such a lifestyle. But to her credit, director Melody Gilbert (The Summer of Help) has plenty of compassion for her primary subjects, including John, a retiree who seems inseparable from his Real Doll “wife” Jackie. John pushes Jackie around in a wheelchair to meals, dresses her for special occasions, and politely fields questions from curious onlookers who don’t quite understand his chosen significant other. Having had Jackie for several years, her extremities are falling apart or otherwise mangled. John is saving up money to get her a new body, and we somehow get caught up in the thrill of the promise of that moment as well.

Silicone Soul
Image courtesy of the film.

Silicone Soul is mostly about men who view their Real Dolls as something more than inanimate, but Gilbert as takes the time to visit with a woman who brings eerily realistic baby dolls to Alzheimer’s patients who positively light up when presented with what they think is a real child. One of my favorite subjects is an artist who has a collection of Real Dolls that she uses in her compelling photography work, posing them in provocative poses both alone and with human models. The results are quite beautiful and intentionally freaky.

But it’s John’s story that carries the most emotional weight and provides us with the film’s best moments; in particular: a retelling of the first (and only) time he brought Jackie to a holiday dinner with his extended family (at his open-minded sister’s request) and was met with open hostility, cofounded behavior and ultimately a kind of rejection usually reserved for racist uncles or smelly second cousins. It’s fairly clear that John doesn’t view his doll as a sex toy, and he becomes visibly hurt if someone is unkind or refuses to recognize her as a caring, loving soul. You might go into Silicone Soul for a laugh or to look at someone in the hopes of feeling better about your own life. But many of the people featured here seem like good people, perhaps lonely or even damaged, seeking comfort wherever they can find it in a world that frequently rejected them long before these dolls entered their lives.

The film is screening at the Gene Siskel Film Center on Sunday, Jan. 27 at 5pm; and Monday, Jan. 28 at 8pm.

Did you enjoy this post? Please consider supporting Third Coast Review’s arts and culture coverage by becoming a patron. Choose the amount that works best for you, and know how much we appreciate your support!

Steve Prokopy
Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film ( and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.

Plan Your Life with 3CR Highlights

Join Our Newsletter today!