Co-Written and Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, The Lobster is a surreal comedy that takes a unique look at love and coupling. However, is the film too weird for audiences to fully appreciate?
In a dystopian future, citizens are required to find a mate. They go to a resort called “the Hotel” where they have forty-five days to find a mate or they will be turned into an animal of their choice. David (Colin Farrell) has recently divorced and arrived at the Hotel. He has chosen to be transformed into a lobster if he is unsuccessful in finding a mate. While at the Hotel, he befriends two gentlemen. One has a limp (Ben Whishaw) and the other a lisp (John C. Reilly). In the woods outside the Hotel, another group of people, The Loners, dwell. The Loners shun all intimate connections and punish their ranks if they are caught engaging in sexual activity of any kind. The Loners are hunted by the guests of the Hotel, because for every captured Loner, the responsible guest will receive more time in which to find a mate. While at the hotel, the guests look for love by finding the most basic and insignificant things in common and latching onto them. Eventually, David meets and connects with a Loner, a short-sighted woman (Rachel Weisz), and they struggle against the world in which they find themselves trapped.
The Lobster is a very strange film, but it is also very funny on all levels, both subtle and broad. It’s not all laughs, though. There are some serious moments as well as emotional ones. The movie feels like a richly layered novel as the story unfolds on the screen. The film is also a great commentary on modern dating—especially online dating. With online dating, people get very picky and focus on the one or two things they have in common with potential mates, just like the characters in the film. It’s a very shallow approach to love and companionship, much like online dating where one is given a match percentage with other members of the online community based on answers on a questionnaire. Whatever happened to just talking to people? The film captures this dynamic perfectly, albeit with two extreme examples. While the Hotel and the society represented in the film pressures people to be paired off no matter what, the Loners represent fiercely independent people who choose to remain single. However, the Loners are just as bad as the people in the Hotel when it comes to forcing their ideology on the community at large. The Loners not only keep their own members from exploring personal relationships, they also try to destroy what the Hotel is trying to do. So the Hotel represents those people who need to be in relationships even though they may not want to be, while the Loners are those who say they’re happy being single, but secretly long for someone to care for. Lanthimos balances everything perfectly with just enough absurd touches to keep the film funny as opposed to diving headlong into heartbreak. My only real complaint with the film is the ambiguous ending. After everything that happens in this film—which I won’t spoil, because some of it is really shocking—the film just kind of ends, which I found a bit disappointing. I’m sure Lanthimos did it to inspire a dialogue about what people think happens at the end, but after such a satisfying story leading up to it, I wanted a satisfying ending.
The cast is absolutely stellar here. Everyone embraces the absurdity of Lanthimos’ world and they play the hell out of their parts. Farrell proves that he’s far more effective in smaller indie films like this than he ever was in the big blockbusters when Hollywood was trying to make him the next “It Guy.” For proof of that, see In Bruges, which like The Lobster, is a small, quirky project. Farrell is so good in this and the film really shows his range. Weisz is also fantastic as usual, though she doesn’t show up onscreen until at least halfway through the film. She also serves as the narrator of the piece, so she’s present throughout the entire proceedings that way at least. Whishaw and Reilly are very funny in their roles as David’s friends. I also really enjoyed Ashley Jensen as the Biscuit Woman and Angeliki Papoulia as the Heartless Woman. Both have some great scenes throughout the film. Léa Seydoux also does a great job as the leader of the Loners. She’s downright chilling in some of her scenes.
Overall, if weird films are not your thing, you probably won’t like The Lobster. However, you’ll be missing one of the year’s best films so far. It’s a wholly original project with so many layers of both humor and social commentary that it begs to be watched. If you like quirky films, you should love The Lobster. Check it out if it’s playing in your area.