How do you begin to describe “The Lobster”? A twisted and surreal love story? A pitch black comic morality play? An absurdist fantasy on a theme of societal convention? “The Undateables: The Movie”? It’s all these and much more as director Yorgos Lanthimos takes us on a bizarre journey into an uneasy totalitarian future where romance is governed by a ruthlessly applied set of rules.
According to the laws of The City, single people are taken to The Hotel where they have 45 days to find a romantic partner or they will be transformed into animals (of their choosing) and sent off into the wilderness. At the centre of the story is David (Colin Farrell) who is sent to The Hotel (accompanied by his brother, who failed his time in The Hotel and has been turned into a dog) when his wife leaves him for another man.
To go any further in describing the plot would be to spoil the many surprises, delights, shocks and kinks the film has in store for you. A fusion of European aesthetics and Irish charm subverted into a weirdly bright and sunny nightmare, the film is full of odd yet compelling performances from an international cast including the likes of Rachel Weisz (who pulls double duty as narrator), John C Reilly, Léa Seydoux, Olivia Colman and Ben Wishaw. Farrell’s performance as David is one of the finest he’s ever given. A world away from his roguish leading man looks, David is a pot-bellied, cowed and despondent fellow, heartbroken and seemingly numbed to the world around him. He’s matched by a terrific performance from Angeliki Papoulia, who brings to life one of the great screen sociopaths and is responsible for arguably one of the films most unexpected and shocking moments.
At first glance, it appears to be a humorous and quirky allegory for romance and dating but lurking just beneath the surface is a blistering satire of the hollow and mechanistic criteria-based swipe left/right binary of internet dating apps as well as a savage indictment of the self-delusion and necessary deceits of marriage and relationships.
It’s definitely the most peculiar, most original film I’ve seen this year and also one of the best. Funny, poignant, heart-breaking and terrifying by turn; it’s likely to be an acquired taste. It won’t suit everybody’s palate but if you’ve got the appetite for it, “The Lobster” is a succulent dish indeed.