Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Cast: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Léa Seadoux John C Reilly, Olivia Colman and Ben Whishaw
Running Time: 119 minutes
Release Date: October 16th
You know you’re on to a winner when you leave a movie theatre and everyone around you has a multitude of questions that they already have answers to, but want as many differing opinions as they can consume too. There are so many deliciously loose threads left hanging at the end of The Lobster, you can’t help but ponder and quiz for hours and days after the end credits have rolled, and yet the one thing you don’t question is the world The Lobster presents to us. It quickly sets us the rules of its near-future almost-dystopia, and that’s all you’re getting. It’s not going to tie itself up in knots trying to explain every last detail, so it’s up to us to either keep up with the pace or get left behind. Tie those laces, because this film hits the ground running…
Colin Farrell has just been dumped by his wife, and he’s got 45 days to find a new partner, or he’ll be turned into an animal of his choosing (there’s your title), much like his ever-present brother/dog. Upon arriving at The Hotel, we realise that this is not a world of indecisiveness – queries about bisexuality are shot down, shoes don’t come in half-sizes – as Farrell befriends a lisping John C Reilly and limping Ben Whishaw as they check out the ladies available. All the while, the staff at the hotel are hammering home just how terrible being single is – lonely men can’t be saved from choking on their food, lonely women have no-one to save them from rapists – and encourage the guests to find anything in common with each other in order to make a connection, including but not limited to getting nose-bleeds regularly or borderline violently sociopathic behaviour.
Director and co-writer Yorgos Lanthimos (of the over-looked Oscar-nominated oddity Dogtooth) presents this ludicrous world with such blank-faced seriousness that you can’t help but get enveloped by it, while simultaneously laughing at those involved. The decision to have everyone speak to each other in a toneless, painfully honest dialogue doesn’t allow room for subtext or misreading – “Where were you just now?” “I was behind that tree, masturbating.” It’s such a bracing, refreshing way of delivering information that you almost forget that it must mean every character in the movie is essentially pretty high up on the Autism spectrum, and in this world, that’s nothing but the norm.
It’s an hour before the world opens up beyond The Hotel, and we’re introduced to Rachel Weisz’s character – although she was with us all along as the movie’s narrator – and The Lobster changes aim from relationships to society in general, and with the larger target played with outside of the claustrophobic innards of one building, some of the tightly-wound comedic tension just drifts away, never to return. To say too much about the second half of the movie would give too much of the game away, but while it does introduce some fantastic new players such as Léa Seydoux and Michael Smiley, you will be aching for the movie to return to The Hotel and answer all of those frustratingly unanswered questions.
Two things everyone will definitely be asking about it: (1) What’s it like? Well, that’s a toughie. It’s a little bit like a weird, comedic version of Under the Skin, or a more optimistic, more obviously-narrative cousin to A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, or perhaps a slightly less accessible Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Or maybe it’s none of those things, and is so different that it doesn’t warrant comparison. (2) Is it any good? That’s much easier to answer. Yes, absolutely. With a career best performance from Farrell, coupled with Lanthimos’ pitch-black humour and scalpel-sharp intelligence, the only real question should be why isn’t the Irish Film Board making more films like this?