Yorgos Lanthimos’s take on reality has always been a little off-balance. It looks familiar, but the people who tend to inhabit his absurdly surreal world and the events that take place within it are far from normal by conventional standards. Much like his films Dogtooth and Alps before this, The Lobster implores you to throw yourself into this semi-fictitious world and to not ask too many questions.
The world of The Lobster could be considered a ‘Dystopian Future’; not in the same vein as Mad Max or The Road where the entire planet has been written off by an apocalyptic event, but that the laws that govern this world have extended to cover that of human interaction on a relationship basis. In this world, having a relationship is considered essential. To not have one leaves the individual with a few options: to live out your single life in the woods constantly hunted by others, to live in the city in fear of being arrested, or to attend a hotel in which you have 45 days to find a suitable partner. One more minor detail, if you fail to find a partner, you get transformed into an animal of your choice.
It is at this juncture that we meet David, played by a portly Colin Farrell sporting a thick moustache and flimsy glasses. His brother, recently turned into a dog, sits by his side attentively as the reality of being set up in a hotel with many other singletons sets in for David. The Hotel Manager (Olivia Colman) remains direct and emotionless, speaking only of the rules and processes put in place at the hotel, but in this scenario they determine the entire outcome of your life.
The daily routine resembles that of a hotel; only it is often catered to reflect isolation and loneliness to drive home the need to have company. Any type of individualism or freedom of expression with regards to clothing is removed, and instead our lonely hearts are defined by their specific characteristics e.g. a great smile or a limp. It is the literal form of removing the nonsense from a dating profile, taking away any outside factors that may influence attraction usually manifested out of materialism, resulting in a level playing field. Genuine attraction is all that remains.
All the while, David’s story is being narrated by Rachel Weisz. An unnamed woman who we do not initially get to meet, but knows his story in intimate detail, at times slightly out of sync with what we have seen, repeating events back to us for comical effect. The involvement of Weisz is best kept high-level, but at some point her and David’s lives will overlap, with unpredictable results.
Elsewhere there is a raft of great cameos and performances, including the aforementioned Colman, Farrell and Weisz who are all excellent in their own right. Ben Whishaw (Nathan Barley, Skyfall), John C. Reilly (Step Brothers, Walk Hard), Ashley Jensen (Extras) are fantastic as they portray the varying degrees of desperation as fellow ‘guests’ at the hotel. Even Ewen MacIntosh (Keith from the Office) makes an appearance, and Lanthimos has also brought over Anjeliki Papoulia from Alps/Dogtooth as a welcome addition to this eclectic cast, which only adds to the films appeal for fans of his previous work.
This only scratches the surface of The Lobster. For all its weirdness, much like Lanthimos’s films before it, they carve out all too familiar surroundings. Unlike his films before this, The Lobster is a much more accessible affair. A quick-witted, well written and beautifully shot love story, while simultaneously taking a satirical angle on societies dependency on relationships.
For those within Lanthimos’s world, they have their lives undercut by a societal expectation to conform to traditional relationship values, irrespective of personal choices or preference. We are reduced to a series of tick-boxes, forced socialising and decisions we really do not want to have to make. This seeps into the dialogue that remains strangely formulaic and forced, much like that of constantly being on a first date; right through to the banishment into the woods and impending abandonment should you never find a partner – an extreme, albeit, accurate portrayal of how single life can feel.
It is a sharp analysis of the way relationships are perceived now, even if it is utterly absurd. It may appear at times depressing, and at others you won’t be able to stop laughing – this is quite possibly the best film I have seen all year, and no other words will really do it justice other than reiterating that you must simply go and see it.
You will not regret it.