Movie Review: The Lobster

I became aware of this film this year as I watched the Academy Awards. During the program, as film clips are shown and Oscars handed out, I make a list of movies that intrigue me. The Lobster was one of those that snagged my attention. When I realized it was on Amazon Prime, I added it to my must watch list. This evening I at last pulled it up to see why this movie is described as one of the most innovative films of the year.

The Lobster stars Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Coleman, John C Reilly, Ben Whishaw, Lea Seydoux and Angeliki Papoulia. This black comedy/romance was written and directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. The film is rated R, for sexual content, language and a few violent scenes and has a run time of 1 hour and 59 minutes. It was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. It did not win an Oscar.

In a dystopian future, it is the law that everyone must have a partner. If a partner dies, or a divorce takes place, or a young adult hasn't married by a certain age, the single person is taken to The Hotel, run by the rule enforcing Hotel Manager (Coleman). Each "guest" has 45 days to find a suitable partner within the hotel. If they don't succeed during that time, he or she is turned into the animal of their choice and released into the wild.

David (Farrell) is escorted to The Hotel after his wife informs him she's met someone else and she's ending their marriage. He takes his dog, Bob, with him, who was his brother formerly. David quickly makes a couple of friends, Limping Man (Whishaw) and Lisping Man (Reilly), but finds it more difficult to form a romantic relationship. He is told to select the animal he would most like to become, should he fail to find a partner. He chooses the lobster because it can live 100 years, remains fertile its entire life and it lives in the sea.

As his time at the hotel runs out, David attempts to fool the Manager and everyone else by becoming a seemingly ideal match for Heartless Woman (Papoulia). But he can't keep the pretense up, especially under the stress of sharing living quarters with his new partner during their trial period. On his way to a severe punishment for lying, David escapes and runs into the woods where single people, called Loners, live hidden among the many wild, domestic and exotic animals that used to be people.

Released from the pressure of finding a mate, David meets a woman who seems perfectly suited for him. Near Sighted Woman (Weisz) even shares a physical trait with him…she can't see well. Where the Hotel required each person to find a partner, the Loners, led by Leader (Seydoux) are not allowed to pair off. They must maintain the single state, or receive harsh punishment.

David is faced with the choices of falling in love again…or being turned into a lobster…or living as a single man for the rest of his life.

Caught between two societies that control relationships, or encourage the lack of them, David must decide where he fits in and whether to share life with anyone else.

I have to state immediately that this film wins the distinction of being the most bizarre movie I have watched in a long time. And yet, it was oddly compelling. Because the quirkiness rather quickly turns into unsettling strangeness, and there are a few disturbing scenes, I am refraining from recommending it. If you choose to watch it, remember you have been warned!

There is no year given for this futuristic story and no explanations offered for why society has created laws ordaining that everyone must be in a relationship. We are dropped into the story and left to interpret it as we will. In fact, Lanthimos' desire was that each viewer would decide what the movie meant to him or her, as seen through their own perspectives and beliefs. I have to give him credit for original and creative thinking.

The people of the future are repressed, direct, and fearful of being alone, lest they become an animal that can be killed and eaten by other animals in the woods. The other alternative, of escaping the City or the Hotel, and foraging in the woods as a Loner, seems equally frightening to them. And so they define each other by physical characteristics, hence the lack of proper names in the film, and match up with partners who are just like them. No one seems happy in their relationships. How could they be? They are fear based and forced. And if the couples feel stress or tension, or argue, they are assigned children. I did laugh at that.

At its core, this movie is a romance. Those who are alone are not allowed to remain so. And if you are a Loner, you aren't allowed to be partnered. The two extremes on the relationship spectrum have similar bizarre rules for living and no tolerance for those who wish to adopt a different lifestyle. David and Near Sighted Woman attempt to create a world of their own, where true love has a chance to take root. The question for David becomes how far is he willing to go, to keep that growing relationship? As with the synopsis of the movie, you get to interpret the ending for yourself.

Intriguing? Yes, this movie was. Hidden truths buried within it? Yes, I had interesting reactions to the extreme relationship viewpoints that will undoubtedly cause me to examine my own beliefs. Bizarre, uncomfortable and disturbing? Thought provoking, original and unforgettable? The Lobster is all of those things.

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