The Lobster: A Review
Yorgos Lanthimos’ (Alps, Dogtooth) first feature film shot in English, The Lobster, is a truly remarkable piece of work.
Teaming up again with regular writing partner, Efthymis Filippou, Lanthimos delivers a romantic comedy, uniquely blended with dystopian and magical realism to extraordinary effect.
The plot concerns David (Colin Farrell), who – according to the law is required to check into The Hotel (because of his divorced status), where he must find love within forty-five days or be turned into an animal of his choosing. Hunted and capturing Loners in The Woods, a group led by Lea Seydoux credited only as ‘Loner Leader’, can earn the hotel occupants extra days. The crux of the plot is formed by David’s existence between the ruthless attitudes of The Hotel and of The Loners towards being alone and being a relationship, respectively.
The true genius of The Lobster is how it presents its fantastical elements to the audience as nothing out of the ordinary. We are shown little to no extraneous detail and are left to build our own picture of the fairly minimalist world by what we glean from the dialogue. Choice snippets of information, such as the world being full of dogs – because of dogs being a popular choice of animal to turn into – help conjure up wonderfully surreal scenes that Lanthimos is happy to just allow the audience to imagine.
Achieving absurdity through the mundane is where The Lobster shines the brightest: discussions between the residents of The Hotel about their ‘unique characteristics’ or the hotel staff’s role play of being single versus being in a relationship are absolute off-beat hilarity.
The incredible, stilted dialogue delivered in near monotone by the actors makes for some laugh-out-loud moments. Farrell’s performance, alongside the supporting roles, Ashley Jensen, Ben Wishaw and John C. Reilly really shine in this regard. Also, keep an eye out for Ewen MacIntosh’s perfectly cast small appearance at target practice. Honourable mention must also be given to the magnificent Olivia Colman, who shines in the role of Hotel Manager, treading the perfect balance between monotonous and sinister.
The ethereal feel to the film is a pleasure to experience. Rachel Weisz, provides yet another fantastically understated performance, narrating scenes that we see happening before us which ultimately provides a distant feeling despite our proximity to the events described. The effect created is not too dissimilar to the sensation created in 2011 Indie gem, The Stanley Parable.
Minor pacing issues at the beginning of the last act slightly scupper the overall picture, but does not hinder this must-see film. The devilishly sparse use of orchestral score, combined with the muted cinematography and subtly inspired dialogue creates an extremely individualistic cinematic experience.
Its deepest treasures are practically inexplicable: Wishaw smashing his face into a table to relate to a woman who suffers from frequent nosebleeds plus the bizarre code of communication between Farrell and Weise. These scenes are simply to be witnessed is to believe.
The Lobster is easily among the best films of this year, as it truly pushes its audience to confront the ridiculous aspects of dating culture.