29 Days of Romance, Review #8: The Lobster (2016)

The Lobster poster

Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos. Starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Jessica Barden. Runtime: 1h 59 min. Released: May 13, 2016 (first US theatrical release date).

This review may contain spoilers

The Lobster is one of the many films I’ve been meaning to see since it came out but simply haven’t… Honestly, the four years I waited to watch this was worth the wait. This is one of the weirdest films I’ve seen and that’s because of the premise alone. In this near future, single people are sent to the Hotel where they’ll stay for 45 days and try to find a mate. If after 45 days they don’t find anyone suitable to be with, they’ll be turned into an animal and will have to live in the woods. It’s dealer’s choice, so you can be whatever animal you want to be.

The fascinating world alone hooked me from the beginning because of its bizarre, strange and creative idea. It’s a world obsessed with co-dependence that’s a parallel to the animal world of mating. Some of the ideas are just fascinating, too, like when the Hotel Manager (Olivia Colman) tells our main character David (Colin Farrell) that his choice to become a lobster is a fine one as everyone chooses something basic like a dog. She says this as she looks at David’s dog, who is his brother.

She mentions that this is a reason so many unique animals are endangered because no one chooses to become them and I think that’s a fascinating idea. Still, I didn’t fully understand some concepts of this world, like why these pairs need to have one specific defining trait that makes them a perfect pair, and I think that kept me from completely understanding the third act. It’s like a world obsessed with those compatibility tests you’d take in high school but taken to an extreme.

The writing itself, by director Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou, is the strongest aspect of The Lobster in a film that has so many good things about it. The film’s humour is dry and monotone, but so clever. Half of these characters feel like they don’t have a filter and just say what they’re thinking, so that creates a lot of comedy. The dialogue is just naturally funny and it’s the cast that make it amazing, Colin Farrell especially. Ben Whishaw and John C. Reilly are also highlights in the first half, as is Jessica Barden as a character prone to constant nosebleeds.

The comedy in this is exactly my sense of humour. I like all kinds of comedy but the writing and dry comedy here just worked wonders for me and my face got sore from laughing. The energy of the scenes at the Hotel have made this film one of my favourites. It’s nice of the second half to take a break from non-stop laughs when the film really jumps the shark in a particular scene. The film kicks into the romantic part of its story when David meets a character simply called Short-Sighted Woman (Rachel Weisz). Weisz is brilliant for her performance and monotone narration, and I can’t remember a time where narration worked so well for me. Her narration depicts David’s inner thoughts throughout the film and it is hysterical.

The Lobster article
John C. Reilly, Colin Farrell and Ben Whishaw in The Lobster. (IMDb)

There’s still some humour in the second half, but it feels like a different film as David meets a group of Loners, led by a character played by Léa Seydoux and her presence is memorable. Farrell and Weisz’ chemistry shines in the second half as it turns to a forbidden romantic drama. That’s one fascinating thing about this and the contrast of the two halves of the film – at the Hotel, you need to find a mate. With the Loners, you need to stay alone.

It’s two extremes of the spectrum that Lanthimos utilizes brilliantly. The Hotel half is care-free and hilarious under the stress of needing to find a mate (and it’s truly cutthroat as Ben Whishaw’s character explains his wife died five days prior and now he’s being forced to find another match), and the conditions of the stress seems cutthroat. But if you find a match when you’re not supposed to, it’s a more dramatic second half with stronger stakes.

Truly, Seydoux as the Loner Leader is a fascinating character and how she makes this group survive, like how they can’t even dance with each other and how they all individually listen to EDM music. That, by the way, makes for one of the funnier scenes of the second half.

It’s just a tonally different story and great for very different reasons than to why I enjoyed the first 50 minutes of the film so much. I believe if the film was set strictly at the Hotel throughout and maintained that energy throughout the film, this would be one of my absolute favourites. The atmosphere and humour just worked wonders for me, and that almost makes it disappointing that it jumps the shark so much into a different tone.

The direction Lanthimos takes it is brilliant and the way he tells the story feels realistic for its characters, especially David. Farrell’s comedic timing and how he plays the more heartbreaking moments makes this one of his best performances. He’s why this is one of my new favourites. It’s something I’ve never seen before and it’s so refreshing finding something so damn original.

Score: 90/100

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