Starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw
In the future all of those without a partner are forced to stay at a hotel where they are given 48 days to find themselves a partner, or face being turned into an animal of their choosing. After his wife leaves him, David (Farrell) is sent to this hotel where he must find a new partner, but the pressure to find a partner that is a seemingly perfect match proves difficult, and so David is forced to take desperate measures.
Above everything else, The Lobster is most definitely a film that should be seen by all this year; it is one of the most unique cinematic experiences of this (or indeed any) year and this unique approach to its ultimately quite universal narrative themes and ideas certainly make it a real discussion provoker. For its first hour The Lobster also feels like it will also be one of the best films of the year, but this is sadly let down by a second half that, though in some ways is an essential element of the film due it being the polar opposite of the film’s first half in many ways, it is undeniably ill disciplined and baggy.
Either way, praise has to go to Yorgos Lanthimos for producing what is ultimately an unforgettable experience (or “traumatising” as one of the six people that walked out of the screening I attended described it as!), The Lobster intentionally provides more questions than answers, but is also a tricky one to review as the less said about its plot the better as it best watched with as little background knowledge or preconceptions as possible.
Though some of the points in its narrative may be unusual, the themes of how society defines intimacy, companionship and how we must have a unique characteristic in common with one’s partner that are at its core are most certainly universal. This means that every viewer’s unique experience and current opinion of relationships will surely shape the views they ultimately have of exactly how the narrative depicts and examines these themes. This is obviously an intentional move from Lanthimos, and is one of the reasons why The Lobster is such a memorable viewing experience.
The seeming relationship doctrine of the society that The Lobster is set in (there are intentionally no indications as to exactly when are where the film takes place) very much focusses on the necessity for both partners to share an identical and unique characteristic. We are currently bombarded by adverts of dating websites that use algorithms to help us find our supposedly perfect partner due to what we have in common, and the society these characters live takes that even further, so characters feel forced to fake physical or mental traits in order to trick a member of the opposite sex into thinking they are a perfect match for one another.
It is these ideologies and thought processes of the film’s characters that provide the most tantalising questions; every character is socially awkward with very poor conversational skills, they also lack any sense of tact or subtlety in their words which are always delivered with a very monotone matter-of-fact way no matter what the subject or context of what they are saying. Ultimately, what sort of society is it that makes all of those that live in it act this way? These are sadly questions that are not answered, but make The Lobster all the more compelling for it.
The note-perfect performances all encapsulate the unique behaviour and speech delivery of this society’s inhabitants perfectly. With a cast list including Colin Farrell, Ben Whishaw, Olivia Colman, Ashley Jensen, Jessica Barden, John C. Reilly, Léa Seydoux, Rachel Weisz and Michael Smiley it is also the most eclectic cast list of any film this year, and most certainly one that no one would ever expect to see in a film together, but that just adds to the unique atmosphere and tone of the narrative.
It is the note-perfect performances and the dead pan delivery of dialogue that help to make The Lobster often a truly hilarious film, but due to the overall uniquely bleak and unsettling atmosphere the frequent laugh out moments of the film’s first half can only be met with nervous laughter as immediately feel guilty for laughing as we are then immediately shown an unsettling image or conversation.
The exceptional performances, sharp and observational dialogue and unsettling blend of subtle humour and unnerving subtext make for an immensely watchable, often hilarious but also slightly disturbing viewing experience. However The Lobster is very much a game of two halves, and the second half seriously struggles to match the quality and overall punch of its predecessor. There is no denying that the complete change in setting and it’s seemingly polar opposite ideologies that turn out to be just as oppressive does of course play an essential element of the overall narrative. However it does feel that Lanthimos could have been a bit shrewder with the editing as it does feel ill disciplined, and at times quite boring, with many scenes that seem pointless and drawn out. This lack of discipline does seriously threaten to undo all of the good work of the exceptional first half, but the narrative’s unique story and atmosphere (enhanced by Lanthimos’ unnerving static camerawork and use of classical music) makes sure that its core themes and ideologies still remain intact up until the unforgettable ending.
One of the most unique and original cinematic experiences of the year; though the baggy second half cannot quite maintain the incredibly high standards of the first, The Lobster is a darkly comic, unnerving and unforgettable depiction of human relationships.