“The Lobster” – a movie review by Gary Chew
If you happened to see a movie that’s set in an anonymous city in a dystopian universe where single adults are turned into an animal should they not find a romantic human partner within 45 days while being confined to an equally anonymous hotel, you’d say, “Oh, I didn’t know Franz Kafka wrote a story about that, too.”
But it’s not all bad. The people get to pick the kind of animal into which they’ll be transformed. The movie isn’t called The Metamorphosis or The Transformation or The Cockroach. It is titled, though, The Lobster. Yes, that’s right. The Lobster.
That’s because the hero of the piece, David (Colin Farrell), looks like he’s not making the cut in time to partner up with a female within the 45 day requirement. He informs the authoritarian hotel manager lady (Olivia Colman*) that he wants to be a lobster since such marine crustaceans live for as long as a century and remain fertile until they die. Talk about fertility!
This is the first English language movie by Greek film director Yorgos Lanthimos. It’s at once dark, funny, absurd, realistic (neither surreal or magically realistic) and, now and again, pretty damn grisly.
The lonely social outcasts are released into a nearby forest after they’ve been transformed into the animal they wish to be. But during the 45 days for coupling up, the animals-to-be (maybe) are allowed to go to those nearby woods and hunt Loners who live and hide there. The hotel “guests” are only allowed to shoot Loners with tranquilizer guns. Each captured Loner allows the “hotel guest/hunter” an extra day to find a significant other.
It’s also totally to the forest with the “guests” if they’re turned into animals. It would follow that most of the newly formed animals would be “used” for survival by the Loners. I’m not sure if the forest has a water source that’s appropriate for a lobster to thrive, but let’s not pin this narrative down too much.
Lanthimos doesn’t either; loose ends are not to be fiddled with since The Lobster seems to be message abundant. Much of the messaging might be just what you read into it. Apparently though, one theme does coming shining — or maybe “shining” isn’t the correct usage here — oozing through: love can be a bitch and whom can one really trust?
The cast is a good one. Farrell is unusually fine as David, all withdrawn and serious. Rachel Weisz takes the female lead, but only shows up about half way into the film. She has no name, but merely identified as the “short-sighted woman.” That’s literally short-sighted. The leader of the Loners in the forest is played by Leá Seydoux. The Loner leader is quite serious about her task.
Sense is not what to make of The Lobster. The film is played almost completely flat except for occasional moments of emotion that come along. It’s deeply cynical and gives the cue that hope isn’t really much on which any character can keep a grip.
I recommend the picture for most anyone who’s really tired of big ticket movies that cover only a few repetitive genres crowding the big screen — week after week. However, experiencing The Lobster could be enough to put you into a big stew.
(*Ms. Colman was just seen as the pregnant Brit lady spy boss in the AMC cable series The Night Manager, starring Tom Hiddleston.)