Release Date: 11 March 2016
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Writers: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
Starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman
Reviewed by Paige Hally
The Lobster is Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest absurdist offering and his first English language film.
Set in a not too distant dystopian future where coupledom is valued so highly that being single is outlawed, the recently divorced David (Colin Farrell) is taken to a resort where he faces a choice – find a partner within 45 days or be turned into an animal of his choosing. In David’s case, a lobster. Manager of the resort (Olivia Colman) is impressed with David for making an imaginative choice, unlike most other residents, who favour canines. “This is why the world is full of dogs,” she comments.
Those who reject this bizarre system – known as “loners” – are forced to live in the woods, with residents of the hotel being rewarded with an extended stay for hunting them down.
David spends his days at the hotel half-heartedly trying to force connections with other residents. He considers his prospects of finding a partner so bleak that he resorts to pretending to be a sociopath in an attempt to impress the hotel’s resident psychopath. When the lengths she’ll go to, in order to catch him out in his lie, prove too much and his days as a human are numbered, David flees to the woods, falling in with a militant opposition group.
However, life outside the mainstream system is just as unforgiving. As David forms a relationship with a fellow short-sighted loner (Rachel Weisz) the militant group’s rules against any form of romantic interaction are just as oppressive as those of the hotel.
Shot predominantly on the Irish coastline, the film’s sombre colour palette and bleak production design match the film’s emotional tone and reflect the oppressive world the characters inhabit, as does the formal framing of Thimios Bakatakis’ cinematography. The jagged, brittle score is comprised of classical music lending the film an unrelenting sense of menace.
While dark and on occasion violent, the film is still funny, with many moments of bizarre humour coming from the performances, the highly absurd premise and the increasingly exotic animals that occupy the background. As well as Rachel Weisz and Colin Farell, the cast includes its fair share of comedic actors, including British comedy staples Olivia Colman and Ashley Jensen, as well as John C Reilly.
In the world of The Lobster, romantic compatibility is between the characters is determined by shared disabilities or shortcomings. With characters are drawn together by traits like frequent nosebleeds a limp or shortsightedness, Lanthimos creates an allegory for modern relationships – the snap judgements of online dating and the societal pressure to be in a relationship.
If the film falters anywhere it’s in the structure and pacing. The first and third acts feel somewhat disjointed. However, the sharp, engaging script and unique premise is thought provoking enough to engage until the end of the film.
Over all, Lanthimos has created an off-beat, poignant love story that examines modern relationships, conformity and detachment.
Paige Hally is completing a Masters in Media Arts and Production