Following the end of his marriage, a new singleton checks into a hotel; a hotel located somewhere between Anderson’s The Grand Budapest and Kubrick’s nightmarish The Overlook. The Lobster welcomes us into a surreal dystopian world in which all individuals are forced to aspire to become part of a couple. David’s twelve year marriage has ended and now he is forced to spend forty five days in the hotel in order to find a partner. If unsuccessful, the guests will be turned into an animal of their choice. It sounds ridiculous but in fact it’s all terribly sinister. The Lobster takes place in three locations: The Hotel, The City and The Woods; the second being their destination should they succeed and the latter their destination should they fail. The unfortunate guests are treated to dance parties, daily hunts – where they target “loners” (rogue individuals who also reside in The Woods) – and unconventional workshops and activities designed to highlight the benefits of being with a partner and the dangers and difficulties of being alone. The Lobster is the first English language feature from Yorgos Lanthimos, the twisted mind behind world cinema hit Dogtooth from 2009. Lanthimos shares the same visual and thematic brutality of other contemporary masters of European cinema, such as Michael Haneke, but is clearly himself inspiring others in the field; with Dogtooth‘s inspiration being evident in Slaboshpitsky’s The Tribe earlier this year. The Lobster contains the director’s usual inclusion of harrowing violence but combines this brilliantly with a deeply satisfying dry, dark humour.
A film of two halves, The Lobster peaks in its first – struggling in the second to return to its former gory glory. Still, there’s enough here to entertain from start to finish even if it is about twenty minutes too long. Once our central character (played with relentless hilarity by Colin Farrell) ventures out into The Woods the film steadily and ever so slightly declines. Perhaps this is because in the movie’s first hour Farrell shares the screen more evenly with an array of characters – both guests and members of staff. The tremendous cast includes Ben Whishaw (one of Britain’s finest up-and-comers), John C. Reilly (a master of character and subtly) and Olivia Colman (champion of both film and television as well as drama and comedy). Further down the line we’re joined by the always underrated and understated Rachel Weisz who always seems to handle her characters with such care and understanding. Weisz, in particular, changes the pace and feel of The Lobster. The second half opens up the story into further discussions of relationships and society’s expectations of them. These discussions commence in the opening minutes and run through the centre and heart of The Lobster. The film asks questions about social aspirations towards companionships whilst also briefly highlighting ignorant perceptions of bisexuality in the first five minutes. The Lobster takes place in a very specific world one with precise rules and personality. Everyone must “match” their chosen other in a blatant way, be that through a physicality, a mentality or a particular skill. Almost every character is robotic and frank – animatronic vessels used to deliver the film’s humour. I’d go and see The Lobster if I was you, simply because you’re unlikely to see anything like this for quite some time. It’s a film with flaws but with equally big, unique ideas.
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