Written by Mark Blakeway
Yorgos Lanthimos’ take on reality has always been a little off-balance. It looks familiar, but the people who tend to inhabit his absurdly surreal worlds, and the events that take place within them, are far from normal by conventional standards. Much like his films ‘Dogtooth’ and ‘Alps’ before this,‘The Lobster’ implores you to throw yourself into this semi-fictitious world and to not ask too many questions.
The world of ‘The Lobster’ could be considered a “dystopian future”. Not in the same vein as ‘Mad Max’ or ‘The Road’, where the entire planet has been written off by an apocalyptic event, but in the sense that the laws which govern this world have extended to cover that of human interaction and relationships, much akin to a ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’, “Big Brother” state. In this world, finding a suitable relationship is considered essential. To fail in this pursuit leaves the individual with a few options: to live out your single life in the woods and be hunted, to live in the city and face being arrested, or to attend a hotel in which you have 45 days to find a suitable partner. One more, minor detail: if you fail to find a partner, you get transformed into an animal of your choice. No questions, please.
It is at this juncture that we meet David – played by a portly Colin Farrell, sporting a thick moustache and flimsy glasses – as the reality of being set up in a hotel with many other singletons begins to sink in. The daily routine here resembles that of a hotel, only it is often catered to reflect isolation and loneliness to drive home the need for company. Any type of individualism or freedom of expression with regards to clothing is removed, and instead our lonely hearts are defined by their specific characteristics, like a great smile or a limp. It is the literal form of removing all the nonsense from a dating profile, taking away any outside, materialistic factors that may influence attraction, resulting in a level playing field where genuine attraction is all that remains.
All the while, David’s story is narrated by Rachel Weisz’s unnamed character, who we do not meet initially, but who knows his story in intimate detail, albeit at times slightly out of sync with what we have seen, repeating events back to us for comical effect. The involvement of Weisz is best kept high-level, but at some point her and David’s lives will overlap, with unpredictable results. Elsewhere there is a raft of great cameos and performances, including Olivia Colman as the hotel manager, Ben Whishaw (Skyfall), John C. Reilly (Step Brothers, Walk Hard) and Ashley Jensen (Extras), who are all fantastic as they portray the varying degrees of desperation as fellow “guests” at the hotel. Even Ewen MacIntosh (Keith from The Office) makes an appearance, and Lanthimos has also brought over Anjeliki Papoulia from ‘Alps’ and ‘Dogtooth’ as a welcome addition to this eclectic cast, which only adds to the film’s appeal for fans of his previous work.
This only scratches the surface of ‘The Lobster’. For all its oddities, much like Lanthimos’ films before it, we are presented with all too familiar surroundings. However, unlike his films before this, ‘The Lobster’ is a much more accessible affair; a quick-witted, well written and beautifully shot love story, which also manages to offer a satirical angle on society’s dependency on relationships. For those within Lanthimos’ world, they have their lives undercut by a societal expectation to conform to traditional relationship values, irrespective of personal choices or preference. We are reduced to a series of tick-boxes, forced socialising and decisions we really do not want to have to make. This seeps into the dialogue, which remains strangely formulaic and forced, much like that of constantly being on a first date.
This is a film which is equally sharp and accurate, as it is extreme and absurd in its analysis and portrayal of the way relationships are perceived in today’s society. At times, it may appear depressing, but at others you won’t be able to stop laughing. This is quite possibly the best film I have seen all year, and no other words will really do it justice other than reiterating that you must simply go and see it. You will not regret it.
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz