D: Yorgos Lanthimos. DP: Thimios Bakatakis. W: Yorgos Lanthismos & Efthymis Filippou. Starring: Colin Farrell/Rachel Weisz/Ben Wishaw/John C. Reilly/Léa Seydoux/Ariane Labed/Olivia Coleman/Jessica Barden.
Whether or not you are in a romantic relationship is maybe just the question of the ages. No matter the time or place the availability of a woman or a man spawned and spawns gossip, books, films and songs. From ‘Jessie’s Girl’ to Pride & Prejudice love and the people we lust for is a theme heavily indulged. The constructed nature of the couple through legality as a means of owning land and/or power is long lost in most modern cultures, but the status of that union is not. The Lobster, from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, so searingly ruminates on modern culture’s near fetishisation of ‘the couple’ that it may well be one of the best films of the year.
David (Colin Farrell) now divorced and the caregiver to his former brother who is now a dog checks into a hotel where he is given 45 days to find a romantic partner. If he fails he is to be turned into his animal of choice. David picks a lobster, ironically an animal that notoriously mates for life, but he appears to make this choice because they live for over one hundred years and well, he likes the sea. The film follows his days as he meets fellow hotel guests, hunts loners in the forest, and eventually mis-partners with a woman. Heading out into the loner world David discovers someone new.
The Lobster speaks to our culture’s growing obsession with coupling. Although social media does not play a role in the film, coupling as filtered through these apps and websites is clearly an element of influence. The film also shows the other side of this coin, the aggressive loner whose path is just as ridged and includes digging their own grave. These communities with David moving between the two allows the film to create a journey without ever revealing David’s intentions. The emotional registers of the performances are all so carefully checked that words lose inflection and simple actions protrude as gleaming truths.
A decently chubby Farrell gives tremendous dead-pan to David whose outlook is bleak and crisp. Not quite robotic, but so straight forward you can hear the silence in Lanthimos’ world which built on order with sex and romance as calculations, not experiences. Farrell is surrounded by a trove of good actors in Ben Wishaw, John C. Reilly, and Léa Seydoux. When she finally appears Rachel Weisz is a great match and brings the second half of the film to life. Her voice-over nicely bookmarks the film although continuously reminds us of her pending arrival.
However, The Lobster appears to end a few times and slightly drags itself out. A key action sequence does not cause any affect in action or in emotion for the characters, stalling out the momentum of the final act. The hanging ending made me gawk, but the whole film was an exercise in laughter, disgust, and poignancy. An exercise that thankfully never endorses anything, but rather imputes the cyclical patterns of how we construct who we value. Or even how we value ourselves and each other based on public affirmations of worth through coupling. The film will surely be an Oscar contender.