Review: The Lobster (2015)

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If you want to get a point across, hyperbole is a good way to do it. You see that in satire all over the place, like The Onion, which is why it’s so hilarious when people believe their articles to be true. The Lobster takes the popular notions of relationships and exaggerates then to the point of ridiculousness. Buried under here is a dark truth about our very real perceptions on relationships. To some of us, we don’t allow ourselves to be complete without a partner. The quest for romance becomes very consuming. Conversely, some people are very jaded and afraid of relationships or see it as something of an obstacle to getting what they want out of life.

The Lobster dances a very strange line of being a self aware parody of a quirky art film, or just an actual real quirky art film. I’m still not sure where it lands, but I lean toward it being more self aware, if not just because of the comedy. The humour justifies so much; even this film’s very existence. But it is remarkably funny, if you don’t mind dark and uncomfortable humour. Again, it walks a tight rope because the humour does get pretty damn awkward at times.

There is a nice collection of unknown actors and the A-list of 2004 doing good work in this movie. Colin Farrell leads as David, a man whose wife leaves him. But in this world, it is illegal to not have a spouse. He stays at a resort, where the objective is to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or they will be turned into an animal of their choosing. David chooses a lobster, cause why not? This undercurrents the comedy throughout. There is this urgency and desperation flowing through every interaction. If that sounds like it leads to many disingenuous dialogues, your instincts are serving you well. The hilarity is in the subtext rather than anything actually said.

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With the clock ticking, David resorts to a relationship with a psychotic woman who has extended her stay by being particularly good at hunting the renegade outsiders who embrace a life of independence. Alas, David can only pretend to be a good match for a psychopath for so long. He has no choice but to flee into the woods where he joins the society of single people. It’s great at first because he can masturbate whenever he feels like it and runs no risk of having to be turned into a lobster. But the rule is that he cannot be in relationship with anyone and when he falls in love with a woman played by Rachel Weisz (which we’ve all done, let’s admit it), he finds himself having to hide their affair from the equally restrictive independence rogues.

Admittedly, the story line is one to scratch your head at. It’s not the kind of dystopian future that needs to be believable or even all that interesting. The core of this movie is what it has to say about relationships, or the lack thereof, and what societal expectations are. With romantic idealisms thrust on us by cinema for ages, for once there is a film which turns the idea around and shows a world where there is rarely an ideal. You settle or you die alone… or you get turned into a lobster. In a way that makes their romance a strangely beautiful one; the world is literally against them. We wish for them so dearly to succeed, but there is little hope for them to. In this world, there is no place for a genuine, natural love.

You just have to accept the strange irrationality of the picture The Lobster paints in order to embrace this film. It’s not for a mainstream audience. People aren’t going to get this movie. I’m not convinced I do. Perhaps I love it anyway. One has to respect the ambition and vision of Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, who makes the best of a low budget and sparse screenplay. He has the delicate touch to helm a dark comedy such as this, which could have easily collapsed under the weight or its own pretentiousness. Yet, it stands firm and feels honestly introspective. Best of all, I laughed hard.

What an odd movie.

4 stars

-DF