Film review: The Lobster (2015), directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Sooooo imagine a world where couples are the norm. Not just the norm … more like the law. You have to have a partner, and if you don’t, you go to a hotel where you have 30 days to find someone, and if you don’t, you get turned into an animal of your choice. When David’s (Colin Farrell) partner decides to ditch him and hook up with someone else, he goes to the hotel along with his dog – a.k.a. his brother who failed to find a partner.
He’s asked about his sexual preferences, which animal he would like to be turned into (a lobster, because reasons, hence the title), and gets to meet the other inmates/hotel guests. Soon, he befriends a lisping man (John C Reilly) and a limping man (Ben Whishaw) and find out that you can get extra days added on to those 30 days when you partake in a bizarre hunt in the woods and catch the most number of people. One seemingly heartless woman (Angeliki Papoulia) in particular is particularly good at this.
Well, if the choice is between her, an overly talkative – and rather desperate – woman (Ashley Jensen) wanting to invite you over for biscuits, and becoming a lobster, what do you do? What choices do you really have?
Also starring Ariane Labed as the Maid, Olivia Colman as the Hotel Manager, Rachel Weisz as the short-sighted woman, and Léa Seydoux and Michael Smiley as a couple of loners.
Aside from everyone acting very deadpan and matter-of-fact, which probably just helps to add with the whole weirdness vibe, it’s an interesting film. Not one I’m in a hurry to re-watch, because WHAT?! The premise of twosomeness-or-get-turned-into-an-animal is odd, to say the least, and there’s no real explanation given as to why this is happening. That twosomeness is desired is explained in what appears to be daily brainwashing sessions, but not how society came to be the way it is. It’s one of those “just go with it” kind of things.
As an opposite of what we’re used to, where couplehood is optional and dating is a beast of its own, The Lobster works as an interesting contrast. Here you have people who have to find someone to hook up with or face some rather bizarre consequences. No “you can come back and try again in six months”, but “find someone or become a parrot/dog/lobster/salmon/capybara in 30 days and see how that will work out for you”. The process itself isn’t explained, it’s just something that happens in a locked room, and it sounds unpleasant. (Although, becoming an animal doesn’t sound bad to me, it sounds pretty awesome.)
The only character with an actual name is David. David, who is a very average guy, with a very average mustache and who looks like your stereotypical accountant or something. “Dad bods” are apparently in fashion these days, and Colin Farrell is definitely rocking the one he’s got in this film. (He’d rock it even if he kept it up, but he hasn’t. On the plus side, he ditched the mustache at the same time, so there is that. Small mercies and so on.)
Whether dressed or undressed, the actors seemed to have had a fun time making the film, even if it’s a headscratcher. It has some funny moments in it, but if dark comedy isn’t your cup of tea, this is not one for you. This is not a film for most people, to be fair, because it’s so very weird and incredibly absurd. Still, it was kind of engaging to watch, if only for the constant look of complete “WTF?” on your own face.
Ah, the ending is intentionally left vague, by the way. It’s one of those “we’re not telling you what actually happened, so what do YOU think happened?” That was a little bit annoying, but fair play to them. I don’t know what I think happened. I went on the IMDb message boards to try and find out if I had missed something or what actually happened, only to find out that nah, you decide the ending for yourself.
Bizarre as hell, but not actually a bad thing – if you can stomach the weirdness. And the horrifying scene in the bathroom.
3.7 out of 5 secret hand signals.
(I’d choose to become a cat, obvs. Like the well-fed one currently sleeping on a warm patch on the carpet between the radiator and my bed just now. That’s a pretty good life right there.)