Director(s): Yorgos Lanthimos
Writer(s): Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
Region of Origin: Ireland, UK, Greece, France, Netherlands
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Digital, Color, 118 mins
Synopsis: In a dystopian near future, single people are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into animals and sent off into The Woods. (Source)
Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster is the defining film about heartbreak and romance in the modern age. Steeped in intimacy, blinding sorrow and hopeless romanticism, Lanthimos has somehow found a way to make us feel the language of love and loss, laced through a high-concept farce that charms as much as it devastates. Unfolding amidst a dystopia in which no one is allowed to be single, the story explores a totalitarian society with ideas that are sometimes too painful to be funny (but you’ll laugh anyway), as people crumble under societal pressure to chase a significant other out of fear and constant ostracization. Lanthimos’ film is a both a grim reflection of love and our society’s thirst for instant gratification or status quo, but also a keen observation of what it means to love and be loved in return. Leaving no stone unturned, this is absolutely one of the year’s most original films.
After separating from his wife, a man named David (Colin Farrell) is sent off to a luxurious hotel. Once there, he has 45 days to find a new romantic partner or be turned into an animal of his choice and set free in the woods. The guests at this hotel are all forced to wear the same clothes and undergo dehumanizing acts which warn them of how terrible it is to be without a mate, all while they hunt down exiled loners in the surrounding woods to buy more time for their stay. Torn by his own heartbreak and the psychological torment at the hotel, David’s quest for love leads him somewhere unexpected.
What makes Lanthimos’ film so great is just how fully formed and thought out this nightmarish world is. The premise is simple, yet cleverly constructed and deconstructed, given to us through a series of reveals which only make the film’s central idea bigger and more urgent. As you can imagine, nothing is wasted here, from the self-perceived imperfections which bring the hotel’s quirky inhabitants together, one character’s thoughtful dissection of which animal he’d like to be turned into, to a rebellious group of outcasts who live in the woods, defiant of the city’s tyrannical law. Though the film’s satirical slant is deliberately silly, it’s also always piercing and with a purpose, illustrating a world where loneliness has turned love into a reactionary measure built on dishonesty and fear. Conversely, Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou’s script achingly captures the innocence and rapture of romance, and how it blinds us to the horrors of the world around us. Never hollowly sentimental or grim for the sake of it, the film exposes the extreme highs and lows of human affection like a raw nerve.
Though every character of the large ensemble gets a chance to shine, there are a few that stand out as anchors. As David, Colin Farrell (who gained about 40 pounds for the role) plays a man who is sweet and shy but turned cold by his situation. He wears the film’s absurdity with sincerity, making it all the more heartbreaking and funny. Rachel Weisz’s unnamed character is a beautiful contrast to Farrell’s David. She narrates the film and appears late in the game, instantly turning the story upside-down with her charm and gentle-natured persona. Together, the pair are irresistible – I don’t wanna spoil what the film has in store for them, but they single-handedly embody the film’s ideas with an unabashed innocence. Ben Whishaw, John C. Reilly, Angeliki Papoulia and Ariane Labed all play inhabitants of the hotel, each bringing color and texture to the film as their stories intersect and contrast with David’s in delightfully perverse ways. Lastly, Lea Seydoux is a nice surprise, arising as an unexpected character who is fierce, but with a transparent fragility. Despite the film’s heavy themes, it’s the straight-faced, comedic timing of each performer that keeps the film both outrageous and profound.
The Lobster is a complex, often hilarious look at the way we define each other and ourselves by our faults, but also how said imperfections are what bind us together, or keep us terribly apart. The film almost doesn’t take sides in some aspects, but doesn’t need to, illustrating how love isn’t found in perfection and that it doesn’t come without a cost. With his latest, Lanthimos has created a melancholy, absurdist classic, one that only grows deeper with more thought and time, and I can’t wait to revisit it and uncover more.