“The Lobster” – On an ordinary, overcast day in the British Isles, David (Colin Farrell) checks into a 5-star, countryside hotel. His stay will be far from predictable, and in fact, under a most bizarre scenario, David has 45 days to find love. If he succeeds, he will discover happiness forever, but if he fails, the people running the hotel will turn him into an animal, literally an animal. Luckily, David gets to decide which animal he could become (how novel, right?), and out of all the animals in the universe, he chooses to (potentially) be a lobster. It seems like a strange choice, but he explains that they live for a hundred years, remain fertile for their entire lives, and plus, he loves the sea.
Quite frankly, all 1 hour 58 minutes of director Yorgos Lanthimos’ picture seems like a strange choice. Yes, “The Lobster” is a wonderful, inspiring, hilarious, and frightening choice, and – led by a highly inventive screenplay and a purposely subdued performance by Farrell – it is, without question, the best movie that I have seen (so far) in 2016. Set in a present day, parallel universe or next decade’s dystopia, Lanthimos chooses muted colors and gray palettes to paint this world and successfully sets an uncomfortable and uncertain mood.
The setting looks like a typical 2016 day on Planet Earth, but everyone’s behavior and internal logic is off-kilter. Part of the film’s magic is the big (and small) discoveries of this world’s misaligned ideals and mores. By revealing them in this review, I would be performing a massive disservice to you, the viewer, so I won’t. Just know that the picture divulges them in uproarious, shocking and sometimes perverse ways and, in the process, raises excellent questions about romantic relationships.
Why do we choose a specific mate? What do we sacrifice when we form a partnership? Are we honest with – and do we remain true to – ourselves? Is a chosen partner a true soul mate or someone who simply fits a need?
Through David’s (and other characters’) experiences in the hotel, it attempts to answer these questions, while it entertains in an oddball manner. I would compare this film’s experience to a Wes Anderson picture with oodles of visual eccentricities and quirky individuals but with a more forlorn feel. It is difficult to find a happy character on the screen, but these desperate singles certainly look for comfort and joy. A terrific array of actors like Ashley Jensen, Jessica Barden, John C. Reilly, and Ben Whishaw play these unattached, “despairing” beings, and the screenplay does not provide them names, and instead, we know them as Biscuit Woman, Nosebleed Woman, Lisping Man, and Limping Man.
Meanwhile Farrell – who is somewhat unrecognizable with a 70s haircut, rimless glasses and a Tom Selleck-like mustache – is completely fascinating as a restrained, introverted architect who seems to have let life dictate his path for him. Farrell’s David meanders through this “new path” and attempts to find the right key to someone’s heart before his six-week and three-day journey reaches its curfew. With the clock ticking, he needs to take a stand and fight for his destiny, and it might arrive in the form of a pretty, short sighted woman (Rachel Weisz).
Then again, perhaps searching for a lifelong love under duress or societal ideals might be a short sighted endeavor.
Well, just be aware of those literal and figurative lobster nets in the sea and onshore, respectively.
Image credits: A24, Trailer credits: KinoCheck International