THE STORY – In a dystopian society, single people must find a mate within 45 days or be transformed into an animal of their choice.
THE CAST – Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Jessica Barden, Olivia Colman, Ashley Jensen, Ariane Labed, Angeliki Papoulia, John C. Reilly, Lea Seydoux, Michael Smiley & Ben Wishaw
THE TEAM – Yorgos Lanthimos (Director/Writer) & Efthymis Filippou (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 118 Minutes
By Matt N.
There may not be a film as original or absurd as I shall see this year than “The Lobster.” Steeped in sadness and the human desire to not be alone, the film is an odd take on our society’s view of human relationships and a unique vision of the future. The offbeat tone and ridiculous dialogue may be too much for casual viewers to handle. However, cinephile fans who are accustomed to Yorgos Lanthimos’ previous work (Including the Academy Award nominated Foreign Language Film “Dogtooth”) will rejoice when they realize that he pulls no punches in his visual aesthetic nor in presenting thought-provoking themes within his English-language feature film debut.
In a dystopian future, adults who are single, are relocated to a hotel where other singles are all settled in there with one common goal: to find a genuine compatible partner for a relationship. If the two prove to be a perfect match, they will then be relocated away from the hotel and back towards the city to rejoin the other couples currently living there. Each person at the hotel has 45 days to find their perfect match, or risk being transformed into an animal of their choosing. A sad and lonely architect named David (Colin Farrell) checks in with his brother who has since his stay, been transformed into a dog. David decides that if he cannot find a suitable partner within 45 days, he will become a lobster and released from the hotel into the surrounding forest with the other animals and the loners, who are people that have escaped the hotel and are now used as a hunting exercise by the hotel’s current inhabitants. Should they get shot with a tranquilizer gun and taken back to the hotel, the person who captures the loner can have time added to their stay at the hotel. David makes friends with other single men (And women who are all never named) such as “The Man With The Lisp” (John C. Reilly) and “The Man With The Limp” (Ben Wishaw). But David grows fond of a particular loner known as “The Short Sighted Girl” (Rachel Weisz), who lives in a society within the forest run by the stern leadership of “The Loner Leader” (Lea Seydoux). Here, they have their own set of rules which are just as mad as the hotel’s way of living.
“The Lobster” is divided into two distinct halves. The first half follows David as he checks into the hotel seeking to turn single people into perfectly matched couples, then re-transport them back to the city. The second half follows David as he grows fond of a woman who is never named but is short sighted like him, so she’s called “The Short Sighted Woman.” The first half is certainly more engaging than the second as it plunges both the audience and David into this wholly original world that is at times ludicrous but highly imagined. The hotel has its own set of rules ranging from being prohibited to masturbating to arranging staged scenarios of why it’s better to be part of a couple than single. The behaviors and mindset of both the staff and guests within the hotel are fascinating on multiple levels and really gets you to question the very fabric of modern day relationships. However, when the film explores the romantic relationship of David and “The Short Sighted Woman” it loses a bit of its mystique and the narrative turns completely opposite. Instead of living in a world where being single is prohibited, now David is living in a society where establishing a relationship with another human being is prohibited. Certainly, we have seen the second scenario played out across other forms of media before since the dawn of storytelling, but the film’s energy and absurdity manages to carry through the second half allowing for the film to remain tonally consistent.
Moving on from the film’s bizarre yet brilliant screenplay, and towards other aspects of the film, the cast delivers and then some. Everyone in the cast is not only given rich material to work with, but the manner in which their interactions play out both internally and externally (From their physicality to vocal delivery) only helps to lend itself to the unique vision Yorgos Lanthimos has set forth. The cinematography by Thimios Bakatakis is especially noteworthy, as the desaturated and muted color palette rids the film of all joyful colors that could pop and catch the viewer’s eye. It evokes a decaying world that is withering away as the human connections of the world are artificially put together.
“The Lobster” is not going to be for everyone. It’s absurd premise and dumbfounding scenes of sexuality, violence and awkwardness will scare off the more casual audience member. However, for those who are willing to open their minds to what Yorgos Lanthimos is trying to say about our current status of relationships and where that mentality may be taking us, will be treated to a truly original film with rewarding subtextual content on human relationships. Depending on your view of the subject matter, you will either be heartbroken, reaffirmed emotionally of the power of love, fearful for what the future has in store, or all of the above. See this film within 45 days of reading this review or risked being turned into an animal of your choosing.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – A truly unique screenplay with brilliant performances and a clear vision from Yorgos Lanthimos
THE BAD – People may find the story absurd, unpleasant and all around dumbfounding.