The Lobster, 2015.
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos.
Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, John C. Reilly, Jessica Barden, Ashley Jensen, and Angeliki Papoulla.
In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods.
If you read the above plot synopsis for The Lobster and didn’t close your Internet browser while scratching your head in a state of confusion, then congratulations, this little artistic independent film might just be your cup of tea. Flaws aside, I would go as far as to say that this is one of the most inventive and straight up creative plot concepts all year.
Not only is the production design of the hotel incredibly detailed aesthetically (it’s well put together with multiple levels and recreational areas), complete with a forest surrounding the building for would be escapees to lose their way in and potentially get tranquilized by residents living within the rules of the system (they do this to get rewarded with additional staying days before their time to find a lover runs out and they are turned into an animal of their choosing) , but every few minutes or so we learn new tidbits about this restrictive environment that simultaneously fascinates and terrifies us. This is futuristic dystopian material meant to stimulate the minds of adults.
Pretty much every single resident of the hotel is seeking to find a partner by looking for some form of idiosyncratic physical or personality attribute. There’s a man with a limp hoping to find a woman with a limp, a man with a lisp searching for a woman with a lisp, a woman who regularly and frequently gets nosebleeds looking for a man who suffers from the same irregular condition, and well, you get the basic idea.
What’s intriguing is that most of it amounts to razor-sharp satire blasting away at the societal norms and constructs of relationships. Almost all of the dialogue within The Lobster feels entirely forced and unnaturally awkward, delivered robotically, which is something that is usually a negative, but here is ultimately the joke. Simply put, the way all of these hotel locals communicate feels like an allegory for dating apps that are meant to bring random strangers together from across the world by matching them up based on things that should have no relevance.
The concept of the film itself can also be seen as commentary on the unfortunately standard belief that if you’re not out and about in the world finding a partner and conceiving children, that you are of lesser use to society as a whole and not a constructive being; it’s an ugly way to look at the film, but a very harsh reality to how this world is governed. The ultimate punishment of course being that, if you cannot find a partner and prove to be compatible for at least one month, you’ll be taken to some sort of experimental Frankenstein reminiscent room that we never actually see, to be transformed into an animal of the individual’s choosing.
Everything so far covers roughly the first hour of The Lobster, which on its own is one of the most captivating and atmospheric experiences of the year. So, it’s unfortunate that the narrative and script decide to take its central character away from the hotel for reasons I won’t spoil here, but I will mention that the entire second half of the film is somewhat of a slog to get through and nowhere near as interesting. Even the new characters introduced during this second half have thinly defined motivations and no rationality for many of their actions.
Things definitely somewhat recover during the final 15 minutes, ending on some pretty dark and thought-provoking material. It’s ambiguous (what artistic independent film does have a conventional conclusion though), but one that at the very least, keeps you wanting to analyze the two primary protagonists once the credits roll. Also, as with everything else in the film, it also gives an interesting outlook on emotions and how they relate to real love, and not a facade.
It’s also worth noting that The Lobster has a dark comedic edge to it. For as much as the content is disturbing, it could definitely be perceived as funny in a sick way. This is mostly because of the film’s absurd framing device that fully takes advantage of the norms of modern-day relationships to expose everything wrong with them, along with how citizens behave and select their partners.
It’s just a shame that The Lobster decides to ditch its hotel setting full of intrigue. There’s a sense that we’re supposed to grasp a broader understanding of the inner workings of the futuristic dystopian city depicted, but all it really does is begin to drag on and on with a number of uneventful moments. The film doesn’t necessarily go off the rails, but it’s undeniable that it’s best aspects have been left behind.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook