When I was playing Little League baseball in Barberton, Ohio, I would often pass by a run-down red-brick building on the way home from practice. Once, I peered inside an open door and saw workers making risque rubber goods, including water bottles with the face and naked figure of Marilyn Monroe (or rather a woman I imagined to be her). Noticing me gazing wide-eyed at the scene, the workers grinned conspiratorially and I scampered away.

Watching Yuki Tanada’s “Romance Doll,” which unfolds in a similar sex toy workshop, albeit one more technically advanced, I flashed back on this childhood glimpse of a hidden world. Based on Tanada’s own novel, the film gets laughs from its setting, while keeping its comedy sympathetic and droll rather than jokey and strident.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.