This is Yorgos Lanthimos’s (Alps, 2102), first English language film. Lobster finds us in a European setting, which does not specify where exactly, in a time set as the near future. It is a world not unlike ours except for a couple of very specific differences. In our heroes’ world single life is not permitted, once you are of age you are expected to find a mate, if through life your mate dies or leaves you, you are expected to find another partner. If you are found not to have a partner, you are sent to an establishment to try find one and so survive. If after the end of your stay, you are unsuccessful, you are turned in to an animal of your choice to live out your days transformed into whatever creature you pick.
And so it is that David (Colin Farrell, Fright Night, 2011 ) is introduced to us. After his wife leaving him, he now has to go and find a new partner over the next 45 days, or turn in to the animal of his choice. David is a quiet, meek but thinking person, watching what is happening and trying to adapt to get through the experience. This is not a conventional movie, it is deliberate, paced and low key. Even the weather is dull and uninviting, but that all comes together to give us something we can perhaps relate to, the ordinariness of the surroundings, contrasts with the absurdity of the human activity.
As the days go on, many of the guests either was out and disappear or keep working to find a partner they are matched with. The “Hotel” runs a series of activities to help this, including hunting of loners (with darts) who are not up to the mark. Society is geared to couples; even parts of the hotel are off-limits to single people. It is against this background that he begins to spend some time with some of the other guests in particular as they each try to cope or succeed in finding a partner.
As the days progress, David meets and begins to get to know a short sighted woman (Rachel Weisz, Definitely Maybe, 2008). He also sees what his fellow guests are doing to survive and teams up and watches them. Ben Whishaw (Perfume, 2006) is the Limping Man, a character not beyond manipulating the situation to his needs, a lesson David quickly learns. All of the characters are identified by their characteristics, their meekness, short-sightedness, limps or lisps.
Lisping Man, (John C. Reilly, Tale of Tales, 2015) provides us with that perfect foil to Farrell’s David. David is quiet and introspective, Lisping man is open and chatty, easily befriending such as David or Limping man. Emotions are high, as the stakes are and from time to time emotions flair, none better than the fight between Farrell and Reilly’s characters during the archery session.
The humour is very, much situational and dark, as much a reflection on our own society and the pressures we place ourselves under, issues such as our place in life, esteem, partnerships, human understanding. The style is deliberate, dystopic and resembling something like the down-trodden masses we see in films like 1984 (Michael Radford, 1984). The scenes resembling “Blind Date” showing the couples who have joined together.
It is certainly a thought provoking and dark movie which will have you questioning whether or not you want to actually watch it for the first few minutes, but then you find yourself engaged in it, willing the characters along, sharing the highs and lows and asking yourself some serious questions about society.
A number of people will be thinking about watching this film because Colin Farrell is in it (from a sex-symbol) perspective, this is not an action movie, it is a very cerebral one, and guess what, it is the type of role which he is best suited for. He cut his teeth in TV drama, and for a reason, he is a very capable dramatic actor, as are Reilly, Weisz, Whishaw and many of the supporting cast. This is an excellent movie once you tune in to it.