The Lobster Review - Bold, Visually Aggressive, Smart Story Telling

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The Lobster, from A24, transports the viewer into a futuristic world, where singles face discrimination, freedom is refused, and those without mates are forced to find partners in a desperately limited society with time the enemy of all.


Written and directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, The Lobster stars Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Jessica Barden, Olivia Colman, Ashley Jensen, Ariane Labed, Angeliki Papoulia, John C. Reilly, Lea Seydoux, Michael Smiley, and Ben Whishaw. The Lobster was co-written by Efthimis Filippou.

The Lobster opens with David, played by Colin Ferrell, being dumped by his wife. She doesn’t love him anymore. Normally, this would be painful, of course, and one would go out find an Airbnb or an apartment, cry on the relatives’ shoulder and move on.

Society, in The Lobster, has changed somewhat as singles have been cursed with the plague of death, as if it were in the water, once the home is absent of the affection of another, an dormant gene takes over and the single is given 45 days to find a mate or they will be turned into the animal of their choice.

David, arrives at The Hotel, the staging ground for singles to work on the next phase with a dog, his brother, actually as we find out, who couldn’t meet or refused to meet the deadline and by choice he became a much loved dog.

The hotel is run by the elderly Hotel Manger couple played by Olivia Colman and Garry Mountaine, a odd couple of sorts that prove, love actually can exist if necessary.

Singledom, is a stigma in and of itself, and our new society suggests new rules for finding a mate. One that may be similar, with the same idiosyncrasies, one with a limp, may want to find one with the same, reaching beyond the boundaries to opposites attracting is frowned upon as the mating cycle takes longer.

After check-in our new single David has a set of rules to abide by including no sexual encounters, alone or with others. The Hotel provides sexual stimulation by the lovely Maid, played by Ariane Labed, who provides just enough to keep the desire alive but not enough to satisfy.   

After a day or two David has been given the option of extending his days, as all do with the hunt and as we see extending the length of one’s days is paramount as the guests round up the rebels hiding out in the forest.

Hoping to find out more about the Hotel and prospects David meets The Lisping Man, played by John C. Reilly, and The Limping Man played by Ben Whishaw, each of them with limited time left before the final sentences are carried out and death to humankind is realized. Both are at various stages in the pursuit process.

Punishment for masturbation is severe as we see with The Lisping Man who while not resigned to his fate, as he is an expert marksman, has taken the challenge into his own hands.

Our Limping Man, has decided the deceptive approach is best to securing his future. He fakes a similarity and soon he is married and his days, and hers, are extended.

David, not in fear or dread, decides to marry the intellectual who is also nearing the 45-day mark. Played by Angeliki Papoulia, the two seem initially to get along in a stale, sterile, sort of way. All is polite and without the shadow of death hanging over their heads, a small hope of freedom and peaceful co-habitation, exists.

Marriage, it seems isn’t quite what it seems for David, and we see why his new bride remained single for so long. As this revelation proves more than he can handle, he makes a fast break to the woods and with one single act of self-determination becomes a member of The Loner’s.

This ushers in the second act of The Lobster where we met Rachel Weisz, The Short Sighted Woman. She along with The Loner Leader, played by Lea Seydoux, accept David into their new family.

The Lobster is unusual and a bold choice in storytelling. Building a screenplay that vividly creates in some parts a literal and primarily a figurative interpretation of modern society and reflective on many layers of many opinions, to me is quite courageous.

Society is often divided into the desirables, the loved and lost David’s and Short Sighted Women, to the physically challenged or desperately insecure that rejection is self-fulfilling.

Yorgos Lanthimos, the director who also co-wrote the film, was able to develop a difficult subject and stretch of the imagination into something workable with creative inventiveness.

At first glance The Lobster is difficult to comprehend. Without a background and only the limited voice over in the beginning of the back story, the ideas the director desires to express are muted.

The film has two distinctive acts, the first The Hotel and the hunt for time and a mate and The Forest, the life as a loner and the injuries that we subject ourselves to by not following our instincts, caring too much what others think or simply by not risking and taking the chance.

The Lobster is suspension of reality and the audience needs to approach the film with the vision of suspended reality without superhero stamped on it. The Lobster, is smart and the figurative interpretation expertly and subtly woven and necessary to grasp the foundations and sub-storytelling the director braids into the script.  

The Lobster opens May 13, 2016 in select cities. Check local listings.

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