Absurdity in film is very hard to pull off. If the filmmakers take their subject too seriously, the film will come off as unwatchable and too weird. However, if the director and actors take a tongue-in-cheek approach to it, then you can pull off an original film. The latter is the approach taken by the filmmakers of The Lobster.
The Lobster takes place in a not so distant future where the coupling of humans is incredibly important in society; people need to find their soul partners. David’s (Colin Farrell) wife just left him, so the government enrolled him in a hotel where he will spend the next 45 days with other single people whose objective is to find a partner. If after the 45 days are up one has not found a partner then they are turned into an animal of their choice.
I want to keep the plot description brief, as the biggest joy I took from the film was discovering the original aspects from it, as they were uncovered. The script is very much written and shaped as though it were a book, and this gives the film a very honest and direct relationship with the audience. The characters in the film are incredibly different from one another and yet they all share a sort of emotionless state, which makes it seem at times like they’re all the same as well. The story is really here as a philosophical exploration of our panic to find a mate in this world, and this movie shows us that nothing happens to us if we remain single, we don’t get turned into a lobster.
This is Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ first English language film, and he does a fine job directing a great cast. However, I have to say that his style is a bit irregular; at some points in the story he is able to pull laughs from the audience poking fun at an awkward situation, but in others the weird aspects of the script come off as incredibly disturbing. However, I have to commend Lanthimos since making this film appeared to be incredibly difficult; how can he make the audience see past the fable that is being shown and into the deeper message? His hard work pays off as he gives us an entertaining piece.
As for the cast, a fabulous Colin Farrell gives up his usual flamboyance in exchange for an incredibly subtle and restrained performance. In fact we barely see him emit any form of emotion at all, but he makes the audience clearly see what is going on inside. The supporting cast is also strong with the likes of Ben Wishaw, John C. Reilly, Leo Seydoux, and Rachel Weisz giving very satisfying performances. Their greatest achievement was to never take their roles too seriously, and because of it the film flows in unison with a sort of mockery.
The Lobster is a very peculiar film, and you have to approach it like the filmmakers did, and not take any of the story or dialogue too directly. There are some moments when the narrative gets disturbing, but nevertheless I found the viewing to be incredibly enjoyable and extremely original.