THE LOBSTER (UK/Ireland/15A/118mins)
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw, Olivia Colman, Ashley Jensen, Jessica Barden, Angeliki Papoulia.
THE PLOT: Set in the not-too-distant future, we meet David (Farrell), newly single and therefore destined for The Hotel, where singletons are given 45 days to find a new partner, or face being turned into an animal of their choice. Once there, his brother (now a dog) by his side, David makes friends with The Lisping Man (Reilly) and The Limping Man (Whishaw) whilst trying to fend off the advances of The Biscuit Woman (Jensen). Of greater concern is the daily shooting party, every loner in the woods shot adding an extra day to your search for true love.
Realising that true love may never actually come his way at such a place, David realises he’s got to turn rogue…
THE VERDICT: Okay, so five stars might be pushing it just a little, especially given that ‘The Lobster’ is about 20 minutes too long, and would appear to get a little headless in its second chapter, but there is so much mischief, invention and sublime black comedy afoot here, five stars might just get you off your fat, jaded asses and into a cinema to see this half-Irish film that ain’t half-bad. In fact, it’s half-perfect.
It’s ‘Battle Royale’ meets ‘The Office’, Michael Haneke does ‘Fawlty Towers’, a film where Kubrick, Kafka and Keaton get it on. Or, if you want to be a little less arty and arsey about it, The Lobster is a damn good Charlie Kaufman film.
As with much of Kaufman’s work, Greek director Lanthimos (‘Dogtooth’, ‘Alps’) has a habit of letting the head-wrecking rule over the heartbreak, as our everyday rituals, traditions and social norms are turned upside down to see what’s really underneath. And just like Kaufman, Lanthimos manages to find a rich vein of humour in the absurdity of those social norms, and it’s the artificiality of these everyday situations that any actor worth their salary is more than happy to improv the hell out of. Farrell is committed enough here to put on a major paunch for the middle-aged and rejected David, and this might just be the film that finally stamps his new career as character actor.
Review by Paul Byrne

The Lobster
Review by Paul Byrne
5.0sublimely black comedy
  • 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. ***

  • emerb

    Oscar nominated Greek Director Yorgos Lanthimos is one of the most original talents we have seen emerge in cinema in recent years and his last two films – “Dogtooth” and “Alps” have raised a cult following around the world. Further proof of this status is evident in his new film “The Lobster” which is an original black comedy-drama and the first one he has done in English. The budget boost and all-star cast haven’t stopped him sticking to his special brand of film-making and with “The Lobster”, he has made an effortless transition to the big league giving us an often hilarious, at times haunting but it has to be said rather absurd comedy. The basic synopsis itself sounds weird when I describe it – he has envisioned a dystopian world where being single is a crime and citizens who fail to find a partner within 45 days of staying at a particular hotel, are forced to be transformed into an animal of their choosing. The title derives from the main character David’s (Colin Farrell) choice of a lobster because he likes the sea!

    The film is broadly divided into three distinct settings: a hotel, a forest, and a city. At the outset, we are introduced to the protagonist – a rather frumpy architect named David. He is a somewhat chubby man, complete with moustache and big glasses and when he’s left by his wife, he has to check into an isolated hotel which is run by a stern, matronly manageress played by Olivia Colman. In this society, coupledom is essential, and while there, each resident has 45 days to find a new soul mate amongst the other solos on probation. If they do, they’re eventually sent to share a yacht in the bay for a couple of weeks to prove that they get on. If they fail, they will be transformed into an animal of their choosing, as was David’s brother was a few years earlier (he’s now a dog – “Bob” who was a previous inmate of the hotel). Residents only know each other by their room numbers or “defining characteristics” and David soon befriends 2 other single contenders – Limping Man (Ben Whishaw) and Lisping Man (John C Reilly). They roam around the compound, hunting for possibilities —the young Nosebleed Woman (Jessica Barden), the desperate Biscuit Woman (Ashley Jensen), and the chilly Heartless Woman (Aggeliki Papoulia) but few have anything resembling a backstory. Like users of online dating sites, they fixate on finding similar characteristics in prospective mates. The “guests” can also buy extra time on a hunt: for every “Loner” (a guest who has left the hotel and rejected the system) that they catch in the woods with a tranquilizer dart, they receive a reprieve of one extra day’s grace at the hotel. Eventually, David does latch onto one particular woman, but the situation doesn’t exactly go as planned. Lanthimos uses this prolonged first act to establish a world that’s both ridiculous but also haunting.

    The second half of the movie shifts focus and introduces the wood-dwelling “Loners” (which includes Lea Seydoux, Michael Smiley and Rachel Weisz, also the film’s narrator), who shun relationships and plot their revenge on the couples. After his failed attempt to connect with a heartless woman, David escapes to the woods to join these “Loners” whoare ruled over with iron discipline by their ice-cold leader (Lea Seydoux). David has to survive here while ironically contending with a whole new set of rules which are the complete opposite to the ones he escaped, the main one being that no romantic or sexual relationships are permitted. A welcome romantic spark is allowed to add some emotion and feeling to proceedings when David meets a worthwhile companion (Rachel Weisz) and their mutual attraction leads to yet another escape plan. She plays his ‘wife’ on trips into the city – a cold place of concrete and glass, shopping malls and monstrous superstores where the normal, happily married people live.

    There is no denying the fact that this film has a certain inherent absurdity to it but thanks to a terrific cast and the deadpan comedy, I found it very enjoyable. Farrell gives one of his most original performances yet and the movie also benefits from a host of appealing minor characters, including Ben Whishaw as a man who forces himself to get nosebleeds to attract a woman with the same ailment, the wonderful Colman and the tragic Jensen. I thought that the focus on just superficial similarities to try to force a relationship brings to mind our modern digital age where the use of online and speed dating techniques are the norm. Now it’s all about creating an online persona and making an instant impression. On the surface, the film may seem quite simply bizarre but deep down, it is intelligent and insightful too. There are echos of modern society and the demands imposed to be dating or in a couple, if you’re not, then somehow you’re made to feel lacking and incomplete or where people fixate on surface similarities or where you try to change yourself in the hope of proving more compatible to your “dream partner”. In the end, despite all the “strangeness” – the ensemble of idiosyncratic characters and the purely outrageous premise, Lanthimos gives us an atypical but richly rewarding comedy with great scenes, great performances and even a surprisingly affecting and complex romance. I like that the movie covers so many universal human issues like love, relationships, compatibility and loneliness but I do think that there are audiences who will fail to connect with the film’s odd sense of humour but I found it extremely funny. For me, “The Lobster” brings a blend of quirky humour and surrealism to the big screen and I hope to see more from Lanthimos in the future.

  • Randy

    I was really looking forward to The Lobster which could be just up my weird but exquisite alley. It opened to a good start – an alternate universe where relationships mean very little and one must find a mate within 45 days, lest they be turned into an animal of their choice. I thought the dry delivery of dialogue was part of the message but then, to my frustration, it permeates throughout. There’s nothing to take away from this film and it descends into utter absurdity. Misogynist and pretentious, it’s time one cannot claim back afterwards. 1/5