THE LOBSTER (Greece | UK | Ireland | Netherlands | France/TBC/119mins)
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. Starring Colin Farrell, John C. Reilly, Ben Wishaw, Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz
Recently single David (Colin Farrell) checks into a mysterious hotel in the hope of finding love; the catch being that if he doesn’t find a partner with in 45 days he will be turned into an animal. Choosing a lobster as his animal, Dave sets out to find a woman to spend his life with, spending evenings hunting the Loners to try and up his day quota, and trying to find a woman with whom he has a defining characteristic in common.
THE VERDICT: Another of the directors presenting films at Cannes in the English language for the first time Yorgos Lanthimos’ film is a weird, twisted and surprisingly funny fantasy tale, set in a place that could be anywhere, with characters who really could be anyone.
Colin Farrell seems to embrace the melodrama, the comedy and the deadpan delivery of THE LOBSTER, and ably carries the film on his shoulders. As always, his comic timing is fantastic, and he has a bewilderment about him that suits the character and the frankly strange situation he has found himself in. Olivia Colman plays the domineering and controlling hotel manager, Rachel Weisz turns up as a love interest for Farrell’s character at the worst possible time, but makes the character engaging, but in keeping with the style of the film, rather standoffish and monosyllabic. John C. Reilly and Ben Wishaw play friends to David; Reilly plays this soft, lisping and insipid character well, and the chemistry between him, Ben Wishaw and Colin Farrell is lovely.
Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou’s script feels as though it is a combination of Wes Anderson’s most quirky and inaccessible characters and any one of the recent films set in a (sigh) dystopian future that you care to name. NEVER LET ME GO, perhaps? The dialogue is functional but spattered with laugh out loud funny lines and a fantastic voice over from Weisz. That said, the film is definitely one of two halves; as soon as David decides to leave the hotel and take his chances in a world seemingly hostile to single people, all bets appear to be off. From here, the film feels a little like LORD OF THE FLIES combined with SHAUN OF THE DEAD – apocalypse, no zombies, but still rather funny – but this second half feels entirely disconnected from the start of the film.
Yorgos Lanthimos, as director, creates a world of melodrama and understatement, and uses Farrell and Reilly’s natural comedic instincts to the film’s advantage, keeping the action on screen off-kilter and weird, but still engaging and absurdly funny. Once the location changes however, the pacing of the film truly struggles. Although the action keeps going, it is at a much slower and more sluggish pace, and the audience is never sure where the film is going to end up as it seems to lurch from scene to scene with no seeming reason to do so. As well as this, the melodramatic elements of the film often work against it, the violent outbursts of music often leave the audience giggling rather than rooting for the characters, mainly because we never know what they are truly up against.
In all, THE LOBSTER is truly a film of two halves; the first, in the hotel for the ‘damned’ plays with the conventions of dating and, to a lesser extent, hotels, but once we leave the comfort of the indoors for the forest, things quickly fall apart. Still, it’s great to see Farrell’s comedic instincts on screen, and there is enough here to keep the audience engaged, even if proceedings are a little slow.
Review by Brogen Hayes

Cannes Review - The Lobster
Review by Brogen Hayes
3.0Nicely weird, if slow
  • filmbuff2011

    If you’ve seen Dogtooth and Alps, then you’ll know what to expect from a Yorgos Lanthimos film. He’s a Greek director who revels in understated weirdness, troubling scenarios and abrupt endings – all of which are present and correct in his English-language debut, The Lobster. In the near future, or possibly the present, single people are outlawed and are given grim futures. David (Colin Farrell) has found that his wife has left him, so he’s arrested and brought to a place known as The Hotel. The manager (Olivia Colman) tells him that he has 45 days to fall madly in love and find a new partner… or face the consequences. Those consequences being that he will be turned into an animal of his choice in the Transformation Room and let loose into the woods to live out the rest of his life. David chooses to be a lobster, given that they live for over a century. He mingles with the other single guests, whereupon he meets and identifies with Limping Man (Ben Whishaw) and Lisping Man (John C. Reilly). With time running out and the hotel manager reminding him why it’s so much better to be in a relationship, David has to make a critical choice. Is he a man… or is he a lobster? Shot mostly in Kerry and co-written by Lanthimos with Efthymis Filippou, The Lobster is a highly original piece of filmmaking. They take a somewhat bizarre scenario and turn it into something drily funny, perhaps more so than originally intended by Lanthimos. The scenario is like speed dating, but mixed with a Russian Roulette and a dash of Greek weirdness (it seems to be a trait of their national cinema). Early on, David and his new single friends are sent out into the woods to hunt and kill Loners. They’re also given crash courses on why having a partner could save your life. It’s a very amusing scenario and is even more funny if you’re single yourself. Farrell is brilliantly deadpan throughout, his character a sadsack who thinks that finding love is not about getting emotionally involved. Even Farrell admits that he doesn’t know what the film is about, so that’s saying something. Lanthimos surrounds Farrell with a fine international cast that includes Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Rachel Weisz (spot the Bond connections), Michael Smiley and the director’s own wife, Ariane Labed (recently impressive in Fidelio: Alice’s Journey). But for all that goodness, the film falters in the last act. David tries to bond with the Loners, who like to hang out in the woods dancing by themselves and generally live a life every bit as restrictive as in The Hotel. The pace of the film slows to a crawl and the humour becomes less interesting (e.g. lazy sight gags involving a camel). The pacing is way off here and could do with some judicious pruning – losing 15 minutes wouldn’t do much harm to the narrative structure of the film. The customary abrupt ending is there, but as with Dogtooth it left this reviewer a little cold. Lanthimos should be applauded for making a film so daring, provocative, original and funny. But the third act is disappointing and it lacks that movie magic to make it something really special. ***