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United Kingdom 2015
Directed by
Yorgos Lanthimos
118 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Chris Thompson
4.5 stars

The Lobster

Synopsis: In the not-too-distant future, single people are sent to a hotel where they are given 45 days to find a mate among the other single hotel guests. If they fail to find someone with a common trait and become part of a couple in this time, they are transformed into an animal of their choice. Short-sighted divorcee David (Colin Farrell) chooses a lobster, but as his time runs out, David escapes from the hotel and joins a band of guerrilla singles living in the nearby woods where he meets a short-sighted woman (Rachel Weisz).

Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos won this year’s Cannes Jury Prize for this, his first English language film. And deservedly so.  I wasn’t so much of a fan of his 2009 film, Dogtooth but this one is a smart, absurdist gem which has a real dig at relationships in an age where we count faux Facebook friends as real, popularity is based on ‘likes’ and romance is sometimes determined by a compatibility score on eHarmony.

The first trick to making this work is to offer us a world that looks just like the world we know with one or two quite ridiculous differences: the idea that some faceless power will punish us if we fail to find a partner, and then, the bizarre consequence of being transformed into an animal if we fail at this task. This idea of animal transformation is underscored right at the outset by the introduction of a dog who accompanies David to the hotel and who we find out is his brother who “didn’t make it”, as they like to say.

The second trick to making this work is in the performances. Lanthimos has gone for a totally deadpan almost catatonic style of performance and it’s the absolute commitment to this by every member of the cast that makes it work and, more importantly, makes it funny.  Of course it also helps to have such a great cast. Olivia Coleman as the Hotel Manager is like a Roald Dahl Headmistress and John C. Reilly as the lisping man and Ben Wishaw as the limping man are perfect foils for David’s slightly disassociated attitude to the whole situation. But it’s Colin Farrell who holds it all together showing once again (as he did in 2008’s In Bruges) that his true talent lies not in the action-thriller, where he is often seen, but in dark comedy. Add the exceptional skill of Rachel Weisz into the mix and The Lobster is a real winner.

In some ways, this film took me back to the more avant garde movies of the 70s the likes of Lindsay Anderson’s 1973 masterpiece, O Lucky Man in the way it uses its absurd take on reality to explore contemporary social issues with clarity and wit. Right up to its ambiguous ending The Lobster manages to keep us laughing and thinking in equal measure provided, of course, that you’re willing to accept the strangeness of its weirdly altered reality.
 

 

 

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