Describe the plot of The Lobster to anyone and the response is one of shock and intrigue but always with a wry smile tacked on. A hotel for single people to find love; if you succeed in finding it, great, if you don’t you’re turned into an animal of your choice.. Whaaaaaa?
The Lobster works so well by rocking the creative freedoms of imaginative absurdist comedy with the strength of a large, star-studded cast who must have all been interested in the chance of working with Yorgos Lanthimos, director of the adored Greek surreal dramedy Dogtooth.
Colin Farrell plays David, our deluded protagonist. Olivia Colman plays the Hotel Manager, an advocate of togetherness who preaches the religion of love to a mass of lost souls, David included, heartlessly and monotonously. The indoctrination is preached via unorthodox methodologies like how David and the other new starters are made to wear a belt that takes away the use of an arm to demonstrate how two are better than one and a maid “services” David every day to increase his drive to find a mate. Every night, the inmates are sent into the surrounding forest with tranquilizer guns to take part in the hunt; knock someone out and you gain an extra day in the hotel to find love. When you run out of days you’re taken to the transformation room, flayed, disembowelled and (somehow) made into an animal. David chooses a lobster because he likes the sea, Ben Whishaw who plays David’s limping friend, warns him he could end up boiled alive – David isn’t deterred.
The oddball comedy, very similar looking to A pidgeon sat on a branch reflecting on existence, is evident in every frame – for example, at breakfast there are only tables for one that all face the same direction; an image I’d never seen before. The writing is excellent because it makes every tenant of the hotel seem so depressingly desperate for companionship, desperate enough that even the slightest commonalities between people are clung to in order to potentially force a relationship – things like both lovers regularly randomly bleeding from the nose or sharing a hair colour. One woman, a day before transformation and clearly not feeling the pressures to enter a relationship, is allowed to do anything she wants on her last day as a human; “Do something you can only do as a human, like sing a song you like or read classic literature, don’t choose a walk in the forest or having sex, you can do that as an animal”.
Farrell, with his big round spectacles, plays the role of awkward romantic excellently. Later when he meets Rachel Weisz and Léa Seydoux’s characters, we see another side to him and the world they live in that’s not at all expected but nevertheless extremely interesting.
This is a comedy film, it is very dark and a few scenes might sicken people, kind of like the scenes in Dogtooth that warranted its 18 rating but this is an original work that’s unique, co-written and directed by the same man, an artistic vision brought to life. It’s a comedic dig at our fear of being alone combined with the social necessity some might feel to appear to be in a relationship.
As a single guy, I found it hilarious. Definitely not a date movie.