The lobster is a somewhat absurdist take on a contemporary question. What does it mean to be in a relationship, what pressures are placed on us from society and how an inability to conform to the status quo can single one as a ‘social piranha’ forced to live out in the wilderness.
The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos’ first English language feature, explores the above question of relationships and social interactions in a not so unrecognisable future. Taking place, for the most part, in a secluded guest-house (think more along the lines of The Shining than The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) where unattached singletons are given 45 days to find the perfect match or they are transformed into an animal of their choice. This is where we meet Colin Farrell’s David, a recently separated architect, who declares that he wants to be turned into a lobster should he’s endeavours fail.
It has been pointed out in many reviews that the hotel is highlight of this film. This is mainly due to the fact that it provides the perfect stage for some of Lanthimos’ wackier observations. We see the unlikely trio of Farrell, John C. Reilly and Ben Wishaw (who is popping up in everything these days) come to terms with their surroundings and form what can only be described as a friendship. They attend painfully choreographed dinner dances, awkwardly “chat up” prospective partners and periodically hunt down fleeing “guests” who escape to the woods towards the end of their stay (when their allocated days to live as a human are nearly depleted).
It is in the hotel that we learn how relationships can be formed on even the smallest morsels of common ground and shared interests. It’s also where we learn that being in a relationship with the wrong partner can leave one feeling like *spoiler alert* their dog has just died.
But things start to unravel somewhat in the latter stages of the film with the structure and routine of the hotel giving way to the lush surroundings of the forest. It is here that the escaped renegades live out their unattached, relationship-less (is that a word) lives under the watchful eye of their leader Lea Seydoux. It is also here that we are introduced to Rachel Weisz’ character, Short Sighted Woman (yes that’s what the credits say), who catches the eye of Farrell.
I could go on highlighting the plot but doing so would be akin to publishing an abridged screenplay. Instead I will lay out reasons as to why The Lobster is (or is not) worthy of your time.
To assess what makes The Lobster such an enjoyable film it’s hard to look past the all-star cast. Putting aside the previously mentioned Farrell and Weisz, there are also some stand out performances from the likes of Michael Smiley and Olivia Coleman. Throw in a Bond girl (Seydoux) and space on the film poster is surely at a premium.
As I already mentioned, the film loses some of its appeal in the second act. Perhaps this is down to the change of scenery, taking the film out of the close and absurd confines of the hotel and moving into the forest. But perhaps there is more to it. It seems that The Lobster runs out of steam towards the end and this may be down to the fact that Lanthimos simply had nothing more to say. The premise of the film, albeit intriguing, is somewhat simple. And it seems that questions posed in the establishing shots are answered long before the end credits.
Despite the above, it’s difficult to be too hard on this film. The Lobster (and by extension, Lanthimos) takes the absurd and unconventional sensibilities of European Cinema and represents them in this entertaining and comprehensible digest. The Lobster manages to marry down-right hilarity with deeper and more thoughtful themes which results in this very solid 4 star film.