ReelBob: ‘The Lobster’
By Bob Bloom
“The Lobster” is an unusual and fascinating feature about the tyranny of conformity as it relates to society.
The movie is set in an unspecified future place, where being alone is basically a crime.
Not only must everyone have a partner, but also those relationships need to be based on shared traits or interests — a limp, shortsightedness, a lisp or a love of butter cookies, are examples noted in the film.
Single people — and those who have either lost or split from their significant others — are sent to a hotel where they have 45 days to find a new companion.
If they do not, they are designated for transformation into an animal of their choice.
Coming to the hotel is David (a paunchy Colin Farrell, who shows us his flab to make sure we can appreciate the depths the actor will go for his art). David’s wife has recently dumped him, so he must now go through the process of again finding “true love.”
He brings along a dog, which he says is his brother who had stayed at the hotel but failed the 45-day trial.
At the hotel, David has a few romantic — and sexual — misadventures. He finally decides to escape and join a group of rebels, known as the Loners, who live in a nearby forest.
In an ironic twist, the individualistic Loners have as many rules as those ladened unto the hotel guests.
At the hotel, singles were restricted to individual sports such as golf and swimming. And while sexual encounters were tolerated — and even encouraged — masturbation was considered a punishable offense.
Among the Loners, self-satisfaction was permissible, but flirting, kissing and sexual intercourse led to dire consequences.
While among the Loners, David meets a shortsighted woman (Rachel Weisz), and an attraction slowly begins to develop, as David is shortsighted, as well.
To avoid detection, the pair sneaks off deeper into the woods and creates their own code of communication.
Their growing love, however, soon becomes apparent to the Loners’ leader, who takes a drastic step to end it.
The movie offers an uncomfortable dystopian vibe that is a bit reminiscent of “A Clockwork Orange” and “Zardoz,” among others.
The only aspect of this society we know about is its intolerance of individualism. People must be partnered. It is never explained why or how this came about; it is simply the accepted norm.
Interestingly, when first checking into the hotel, David is asked whether he prefers a heterosexual or homosexual relationship. While thinking about it, he asks if a bisexual preference is available and is told that option had been discontinued.
An interesting sidebar about “The Lobster,” directed and co-written by Yorgos Lanthimos, is that you are not quite certain if people actually are changed into animals.
You are shown a door to what is called the altering room, but you are never taken inside, nor do you see any actual transformations.
This gives rise to the proposition that the entire idea of an alteration can simply be to some sort of belief system, instead of a reality.
The characters are very direct and formal in their language and speech, which may make some viewers uncomfortable, as sexual acts and preferences are candidly described.
Overall, Lanthimos has created a strange and unique universe, as well as a fresh perspective on the need — and requirements — for human relationships and companionship.
“The Lobster” ends on a disquieting note that will surely anger or upset many viewers. But the finale fits well into the overall tone of the film.
“The Lobster” is a different species of movie; one that takes great pains to create a world you may be hesitant to visit — but one you will definitely be happy to leave.
While you are there, though, you will experience a rare and original vision, one that has rarely been afforded in recent films.
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.
3½ stars out of 4
(R), sexual content, language, violence