In The Lobster, David (Colin Farrell), upon being abandoned by his wife for another man, attends a hotel in which he must fall in love in 45 days or else be turned into an animal of his choosing. The movie is as surreal as the premise sounds, but it is also something beyond the mere surreal, which is an alleyway that can quickly lead to becoming a gimmick.
Director Yorgos Lanthimos’ usual brand of awkward yet matter-of-fact line readings dominate The Lobster. Characters present so much on their face while still concealing seemingly everything. At face value, the script utilizes no subtext whatsoever, but this is just Lanthimos’ way. The subtext is to be found in how simultaneously natural and unnatural the film is. The characters are robots yet distinctly human through the recognizable neuroses that label them.
Visually, the film is stunning. Each shot has something poignant to it, even while the entire film holds an austere quality to it. Symmetrical compositions within the confines of the hotel present a world of order in a simple yet elegant way, and these sets are unsettling given the distinct lack of order that is actually to be found in the world of the film. One hunting scene in particular stands out as a gorgeous visual composition, where slow motion, soundtrack, and lighting are used to beautiful effect.
The Lobster is not so much a film about love as it is a film about desperation and the arbitrary things that we use to define our connections with other people. The rumination within David is not about understanding what it takes to find someone, it is about the struggle to find compatibility in a world where compatibility is superficial but mandatory. The film makes comedy out of the apathy inherent in this realization, but it does not make light of it. This is both the strongest aspect of the film thematically and the aspect that will likely prove most polarizing in audiences (this, or the blunt scenes of violence and sexuality).
The Lobster is a beautiful piece, lush with a winding string score and full yet austere visual compositions. Farrell leads the charge with an uncharacteristically quiet performance, and the introspective script bolsters the film beyond being a mere art experiment.
As surreal as the world of the narrative is, it bristles at the edges with an obscure humanity, the awkward reality present in every conversation, as opposed to the overly natural conversation found in mainstream scripts. The balance here is off some, where the surreality may prove a huge turn off for the average film-goer, but it makes for a grim delight for fans of dark comedy.
The Lobster may be the strangest love story I’ve ever seen put to film, and it is picturesque. Composed beautifully and executed with little fault, The Lobster is a film of extraordinary achievement.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)