This is not my regular major new release review, but a review of a relatively recent DVD and Blu-ray release that’s been out just under a year internationally and has been getting a bit of buzz in the United States for the past few months. Since the film has been out a while, and is even available for purchase, this review will not as carefully avoid spoilers like most of my reviews do.
The Lobster is the third movie in a sort of series written and directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. Lamthimos is a man largely interested in the way modern society has sanitized and incorporated parts of the human experience which should just be. In Dogtooth he explored how this approach to parenting is making safe but unprepared children. In Alps we see how we allow people to exploit grief for their own ends. Now in The Lobster he uses this approach to explore how we have allowed ourselves to ruin love.
The premise is that humankind has become a society in which being in a long term loving relationship is mandatory. If for any reason you are single, you are sent to a hotel where you have 44 days to fall in love with someone else there and if you can not then you are turned into an animal of your choice when the time is up. If you refuse to go to the hotel then you are not allowed into civilized society and you are forced to live in the wilderness and are hunted for sport by those who follow the rules. Colin Farrell plays David, a man whose wife recently left him, and the movie picks up on the first day he checks into the hotel to attempt to fall in love with someone. Where does the title come from? When David is asked which animal he would be like to be turned into if he fails to find love, he answers that he wants to become a lobster because they live to be over 100 years old, have blue blood just like aristocrats, and stay fertile for their entire lives.
The heart of The Lobster is not its story, but its combination of style and theme. It’s very much a modern surrealist film, I was reminded a lot of the writing of Eugene Ionesco while watching, in which every line is delivered in a manner which is entirely explanatory. This directorial choice is the sort of make or break characteristic of the movie. On one hand, it’s a brilliant choice as it highlights the themes of the absurdity of modern love and relationships as well as greatly upping the comedy of the piece as incredibly disturbing or passionate bits are delivered as if youi were reading the pages of a textbook. This very same literal monotony, however, also begins to wear on the viewer making the film seem longer than it is and can lead to a sense of boredom toward the end of The Lobster once its effect has worn off. I wonder if there was a way this could be remedied without ruining the movies tone and style, but it is the one problem in an otherwise quite amazing film.
The script wonderfully skewers modern love and relationships. We’re immediately shown the ridiculousness of the pressure put on people to be part of a couple, then eventually are shown that the pressure from the other side to remain single, while not as insidious a part of everyday lives, is just as ridiculous. It parodies how we have become more obsessed with compatibility than with love, how we turn to dating sites and horoscopes rather than just allowing ourselves to feel. It shows how we have this view of relationships as fixing everything broken in us that we can’t deal with even the most insignificant problems anymore and have lost the fact that romance often means sacrifice. It looks at how we lie to impress those we want to love us, and many, many other topics surrounding love. It’s actually very impressive how much exploration of the topic was shoved into just short of 2 hours run time, and that this exploration is always insightful and funny for those with a dry sense of humor.
The Lobster is a movie for intellectuals and film buffs who are going to be fascinated by the deep and absurd exploration of modern love. For those just looking for a bit of light entertainment, though, there is only a bit of dark humor to enjoy and the literal monotony will be a rather large turn off for most. The Lobster is most certainly a niche film, but those who fall into that niche will find they’ve experienced something very special when the closing credits roll across the screen.
Rating: 8.2 out of 10