The Lobster is a love story. Kind of.
Perhaps not the kind you and I would be particularly familiar with, but even so, an against all odds tale of devotion, played out with a comical awkwardness, bordering on the uncomfortable.
The film portrays a society in which coupledom is the natural order of things and where being single, no matter the circumstances, is not only discouraged by society but infact considered a crime; grounds for arrest and rehabilitation.
No conventional love stories are going to blossom in such an environment.
David (Colin Farrell) is single having split from his girlfriend of twelve years and is consequently whisked away, together with his dog (his brother – all will be explained), by the authorities, to an idyllic hotel retreat in the countryside where he will join a number of other singles in seeing out a 45 day period in which each must ‘find love’ or suffer the ignominy of being turned into an animal, (of their own choosing).
Each prisoner (for that is what they are in essence), can increase the length of their stay at the hotel , accumulating credits (additional days) by being successful in the daily man-hunt, a procedure in which loners who lurk in the nearby woods – ostracized from society, are tracked down, sedated by way of a tranquiliser dart and brought back to the hotel where they too shall begin a 45 day stint of their own, if lucky…
There’s an essence of Big Brother that pervades throughout The Lobster and it’s hard to know whether it’s this fear of authority that has resulted in the array of social misfits that seem to populate Director Yorgos Lanthimos’s world, or whether this is just the natural way of things.
Whether it be the lisping inadequacies of John C Reilly’s character, the coniving, stoney-faced delivery of the limping man (Ben Whishaw), or the cold-hearted psychopathic tendencies of the heartless woman (Angeliki Papoulia), David is undoubtedly surrounded by similarly dysfunctional folk that, it has to be said, would probably benefit more from being turned into dogs, ponies or whichever species they have resigned themselves to being, than continuing their droid like existences as ‘humans’.
It’s only when finally seizing an opportunity to run away, hiding out with Lea Seydoux’s gang of loners in the woods, (a group as militant in their staunch defence of all things single, as their polar opposites are of ‘togetherness’ in the hotel), that David finally has a chance to discover love with the short sighted woman, (Rachel Weisz). However, this being The Lobster , naturally it’s an outlawed love (by Seydoux’s own loner rules), which opens up a whole new set of issues and circumstances for David to contend with.
Be it the hotel’s daily indoctrination via propaganda shows of ‘together is good, alone is bad,’ the occasional random appearance of a camel or peacock gate-crashing an inapproriate scene (presumably loners whose 45 days had expired), or the loners’ own insistence that only electronic music should be danced to – a sort of woodland silent disco – as this would not encourage any human interaction and potential flirting, The Lobster is steeped in the darkest of humour.
There’s also a rather unsettling and sinister undercurrent that underpins the film; a fear of stepping out of line, by saying or doing the wrong thing and an assortment of characters whose extreme reticence would seem to reflect this.
As the old Japanese saying states: “never be the nail that stands up above the others…”
I did feel that the concept or perhaps more accurately, its delivery, was on the wane a little in the film’s latter stages. The stilted, almost robotic delivery of the characters started to become a little tiresome. That said, the final scene is as tense and riveting as anything I’ve seen all year and is a fitting finale.
Not a classic by any means, but a weird and wonderful idea, well acted and well executed.