The Lobster is one of the strangest, most surreal and original films I have ever seen. It’s set in a dystopian society where single people are sent to a hotel to find a partner within forty-five days. If you fail, you will be transformed into an animal of your choice and sent off into the wild. It’s completely absurd, but endlessly intelligent.
It’s the English debut of Yorgos Lanthimos, director of the Oscar-nominated film Dogtooth, and whilst this is a harrowing drama, The Lobster acts more as a dark comedy. Not only is there an interesting director, but also a great cast, including Colin Farrell, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Olivia Coleman and John C. Reilly.
Without spoiling anything, the film is a satire for how ritualised relationships and romance are. It’s completely void of any emotion and delivers its lines with a grave sensibility and seriousness – this is what makes it so hilarious. Most of the humour comes from how bizarre the characters act. Despite being presented in a completely deadpan way, it’s difficult not to laugh at the silliness of it all. It adds to the irony that this is a film which deals with love, yet refuses to show any real emotion. It’s completely outlandish, but these subtle, strange moments really elevate the material.
The humour isn’t going to jump out at you, unless, of course, it’s a random camel walking into frame during a serious moment.
I imagine if you were to read the screenplay you’d find yourself seriously underwhelmed; it’s the deadpan delivery which really brings The Lobster to life. Having said that, if you’re looking for a film with a lot of punchlines, I wouldn’t recommend it. Are there laugh-out-loud moments? Yes, but you have to pay attention. The humour isn’t going to jump out at you, unless, of course, it’s a random camel walking into frame during a serious moment. Remember, you can choose any animal you want, and therefore, there are a few instances where something as unexpected and unusual as a flamingo will walk into the frame, catching you by complete surprise.
The cinematography is also fantastic. Some of the most impressive moments are beautiful shots of the sea, next to where the hotel is located. Everything seems to be filmed through a grey, grim-looking filter, which adds to the overly-serious tone. The photography in general is very bleak, despite the bright countryside location. Although all the performances are good, the standouts are definitely Olivia Coleman and Ben Whishaw. Their characters offer most of the humour, and have many subtleties which add to this. Colin Farrell offers a good lead performance and is relatable enough for the audience to sympathise with.
The key flaws in The Lobster are, unfortunately, down to its pacing. The concept of this film doesn’t lend itself to fast-paced storytelling, and the plot itself feels stretched, especially by the second half. The first is funnier, more enjoyable and better at establishing the dystopian world. The second half, especially the last twenty minutes, are slow and stretched out. There is also no real conclusion, and although the ending was interesting enough to spark debate, I can foresee it frustrating a lot of audience members. The pacing of the film is also the reason why it perhaps isn’t as re-watchable as I would have hoped.
Although it does have some pacing issues, The Lobster is a truly original, bizarre, but brilliant film that’s already generating buzz at award ceremonies. It’s intelligent, well-shot and hilarious. You may not want to watch it over and over, but it’s definitely worth seeing at least once. I’d certainly recommend this quirky, dark comedy.