The Lobster review: Not for the faint hearted
Director Yorgos Lanthimos | Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz,
Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, John C. Reilly
Certificate 15 | In cinemas 16.10.15
The Lobster is one of those absurd satirical movies which is sure to draw in audiences and critics on concept alone. Unfortunately, once we get past the originality of the film’s main conceit, those with weaker stomachs are left to endure what can only be described as two hours of psychological punishment, without the more tender balance achieved by Yorgos Lanthimos’s fellow sardonic filmmakers such as Charlie Kaufman or Spike Jonze.
In case this is the first you’re hearing of The Lobster, it follows a recently dumped man (Colin Farrell) as he struggles to get by in a world where singledom is outlawed, and an adult is given forty-five days to find a suitable partner, lest they be transformed into an animal of their choosing. Said forty-five day period may be extended by successfully shooting rebellious singles who have escaped society’s constraints and are living wild in the forest; an extra day gained per rebel shot on the nightly hunt. Farrell’s character reveals he would like to be transformed into a lobster if he fails to take a partner within the allocated time; they can live to one hundred years, stay fertile their whole lives, have blue blood like aristocrats, and he likes the sea.
The summary above gives the reader a fair idea of this film’s unique weirdness, which is artful in its execution, and impossible not to appreciate in its own right. Yet those anticipating a comedy from The Lobster must be warned. Even the label ‘black comedy’ doesn’t begin to describe the nightmarish moments housed within, with scenes of dogs kicked to death, half-failed suicides, and enforced blindings. In an example of the film’s lightly-handled cruelty, if a couple is found to be flirting in the rebels’ forest (where the law of the land is to live out one’s life as a ‘loner’), they are given ‘the red kiss’, where their lips are sliced off and forced together. Rachel Weisz’s voiceover alludes to the practice of a more extreme punishment, ‘the red intercourse’ – the details of which we are left to imagine. Some in the audience laugh uncomfortably, while the script rolls on to the next gulp-inducing, collar-tugging line.
It’s not all dire darkness, as sparing moments in The Lobster are genuinely sweet or humorous. Supporting cast members John C. Reilly and Ben Whishaw see to this with their pitiful awkwardness and desperation, as does Olivia Colman as the soulless hostess of ‘the hotel’ – a rehabilitation retreat for single people in search of a match. Yet past a certain point, the cringing turns to wincing, our curiosity replaced by claustrophobia.
There’s no denying that The Lobster is excellent at what it sets out to do. Like nothing you’ve seen before, it is completely original, cleverly written, and wholly confronting. Yet where the film succeeds in shocking us, its remorseless approach fails to make a point about relationships or society in the way of better rendered dystopian romances Her, or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Perhaps it would’ve been better suited to the Horror genre instead.
The Lobster hits UK theatres on October 16th. Check out the trailer below.