‘The Lobster’ Theatrical Review
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, although still relatively young and building up his career, has surely put his name in the hat with the greats with his film The Lobster. Lanthimos’ first film in English, The Lobster, was released in May 2015 at the Cannes Film Festival, later in 2015 for most of Europe, and has now just been released across the pond this past May in the U.S. The film was nominated in several categories and has won numerous awards, including Best Supporting Actress at the British Independent Film Awards and the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
The film is narrated by an overly monotone and dull Rachel Weisz who we will be introduced to later as the Short Sighted Woman. She guides us through the notions of the film, briefly introduces us to the world, and provides insight into what the characters are feeling and thinking.
The Lobster follows David in his search for companionship in a modern-like dystopian society that is all too reminiscent of ours today. In this society, being single has been deemed a crime and companionship is enforced by the state. If, for whatever reason, you become single, you are then promptly whisked away to a seaside resort where you must find love within 45 days. Enter David (Colin Farrell), a recently divorced, paunchy middle-aged man whose awkward demeanor and nonverbal cues scream discomfort, sadness, and fear.
At this seaside hotel for the recently separated, David is now required to find love in the next 45 days. If he fails and is unable to connect with someone, he will be transformed into the animal of his choosing and released into the wild. At the resort, David befriends other men and women, most notably Lisping Man (John C. Reilly), Limping Man (Ben Whishaw), and Nosebleed Women (Jessica Barden). Everyone at the resort is identified by a defining characteristic they possess, and each person tries to find a partner that complements, or shares, their defining characteristic.
The film’s bleak comedy can be refreshing and hysterical at times, but soon takes an even darker turn when the residents of the resort are issued shotguns loaded with tranquilizers. After being loaded up and bussed out to the woods, the residents hunt down those who have escaped the hotel. This darkness turns ironically positive, for however many escapees you bag equals the number of days added to your stay at the resort and therefore your attempt to find love. The Heartless Woman (Angeliki Papoulia) has racked up quite a number of days, and after David hints interest, they connect but things quickly and painfully head south.
After his feeble and shallow attempt at finding love falters, David flees the resort. In his desperate search for an escape, he comes across a group of runaways, ‘The Loners.” They are former guests of the resort who have sworn off all sense of companionship and live out their days as individuals together. The leader of The Loners (Lea Sedoux) brutally enforces these rules and prepares her troupe to retaliate against the resort. Enter the Short Sighted Woman (Rachel Weisz) and cue David’s heart as he has quickly found the love of his life.
The movie creates a sense of urgency to find companionship and quickly. This idea of forced companionship directly mirrors modern life where life appears to make sense as a couple, rather than as an individual. The resort drives this point home in 1950’s-esque infomercials, e.g., having dinner alone vs. having dinner with someone else. When eating alone, perhaps you may choke on a chicken bone or you may have a slip in the kitchen…who is going to be there to save you? This sense of urgency makes sense when the music of the film is brought in. The Lobster employs shrill and shriek-like music, almost Hitchcock-esque and creates this sense of foreboding danger and an overall tense feeling, which works nicely for the film.
Not truly a comedy, not really a drama, but definitely original and thought-provoking, after the credits rolled, I didn’t know what to feel. Hell, I didn’t know how to feel; the resort enforces a strict regimen of meal time, a dress code, awkward organized dances, a time to get up, a time to shower, a time to dry hump, a time for tea, etc., and directly contradicts what love is supposed to be: free flowing, overbearing, crushing, consuming, and most importantly, natural. It was as if this resort was setting people up to fail, and turning into animals was inevitable.
There was one thing I wished was delved into a bit more in The Lobster. How did the society become like this and why? There are clearly benefits of companionship, but what happened to make being single a crime? I know Lanthimos wanted to leave some room for interpretation, but he doesn’t address the background of the world at all. Some would argue that this drives the focus on the characters and their relationships, but if the world is driving these relationships, it would be nice to know why.
I have very few negative things to say about The Lobster and have numerous positive things to say. Surrealistically bleak and peppered with suppressed motions of hope, The Lobster mirrors modern society as it pushes the benefits of companionship as we all push down our fear of failure. Original, highly philosophical, unpredictable and unnerving at times, the film will make you question the idea of human companionship. I greatly recommend this film to those who want to have a long discussion regarding the instinctual need for love and companionship.