The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)
If you’re sick of the constant remakes, reboots, biopics, book adaptations, and mindless action films that together make up the bulk of your options at the cinema, then Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster will be a welcome relief. Currently in limited release, its premise is about as weird as you can get, but you can also be assured that it isn’t alienating in a no-one-will-get-this-unless-they-are-a-film-wanker kind of way.
The Lobster takes place in a world where all adults must be paired up or risk being turned into animals. After David (Colin Farrell) is left by his wife, he checks in to a hotel where he has 45 days to find a mate. If after this time he has been unsuccessful he will be turned into an animal of his choice – in his case, a lobster. And it gets even weirder from there, while offering an interesting take on relationships. The stigma of singledom is emphasised, as well as the superficial reasons some individuals have for choosing a mate. It’s rather bleak, but it also manages to be quite hilarious at the same time.
As David, Colin Farrell is a completely different man. Sporting an overhanging gut, a monotonous voice, and a pair of glasses and moustache that make him look like he’s arrived from the 1970s, he is about as dorky as you’ve ever seen him. It’s a far cry from his usual too-cool-for-school vibe. Rachel Weisz narrates and stars as ‘Short-Sighted Woman’ (few of the characters are given actual names) and her blunt delivery makes her immediately likeable. Lea Seydoux plays the leader of the Loners, a rebel group of singles, and is quite terrifying in her calmness. In smaller roles Ben Whishaw as The Limping Man, John C. Reilly as Lisping Man, Olivia Colman as the Hotel Manager, Ashley Jensen as Biscuit Woman, Angeliki Papoulia as Heartless Woman and Jessica Barden as Nosebleed Woman are all strong.
The strains of Beethoven accompany parts of the film, heightening the drama and accentuating the craziness of the whole shebang. There are a fair few gasp-inducing moments, and if you can’t handle films depicting murdered animals, you may be better off avoiding this one given one particular scene. One of the best things about The Lobster is that you don’t have a clear sense of where it’s all heading, although the ambiguity of the ending may bother some viewers (myself included). To be honest I felt let down, like it ended too soon. But in hindsight an ambiguous ending is often the right call.
Though it looks and sounds like a film that many people might just not ‘get’, The Lobster is surprisingly easy to follow. Viewers can read into it what they will – you can think long and hard about it, or just let it wash over you. Either way it should be rewarding. In his first English language film, Yorgos Lanthimos has served up what is most certainly the most original film of the year. If you need a reminder of how good cinema can be, do yourself a favour and indulge in some lobster.