The Lobster gets its epithet from its conscience-stricken central character, David (Colin Farrell), who has chosen the marine crustacean as the animal he will become if, after 45 days at the hotel resort he’s staying at, he hasn’t found a mate.
His reasons for wanting to be a lobster are two fold; they have a very long lifespan and they’re virile, and having recently lost his wife to another man, it’s fair to assume that David’s masculinity and self-reliance are imperiled. On this strange premise hangs Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos’ (Dogtooth) latest absurdist allegory, a dystopian satire steeped in narrative tension.
The manager of the resort where David is staying, played with a risible sincerity by Olivia Coleman, is pleased with his choice of animal, decrying how people usually opt for unimaginative selections such as canines. “This is why the world is full of dogs,” she retorts.
Lanthimos has created a cosmology here that’s familiar to our own but diverges strangely and is as satirical as it is sadistic. David is accompanied by his brother, who’s been a dog for years now, having not found a spouse, further adding to the humiliation, hyperreal dream logic, and disorienting sensibility that permeates the film.
Farrell gives a mannered yet heart-clutching performance, his expressive eyes glimmer, casting furtive glances at Short Sighted Woman (Rachel Weisz) – none of the characters except David are given names that we learn – and there’s longing there, and also treachery and trust in the parity of his gaze.
Marked, as it were, by merry invention, The Lobster still manages to take many a dark detour in its drive down contentious cobblestones of social mores, dating rituals, courtship protocols and group polemic.
The exterior and interior world of The Lobster is often oblique, using natural light and imbued with shadow. As a result, the comme il faut tone and texture of the film is frequently as subdued or scabrous as a heart that’s been rejected.
Eccentric characters, like Nosebleed Woman (Jessica Barden) or Biscuit Woman (Ashley Jensen) make morbidly strange transgressions, recounting anecdotes from their lives or telling stories that offer bleakly comedic vignettes, which, far from being shaggy dog digressions, serve to further the film’s general fatalism. Their dialogue alternates around idiosyncratic, erudite, witty, and oblique, often echoing a sad balladry affection.
Even as it offers a Samuel Beckett-like absurdism along with meta Charlie Kaufman emotional traumas, elements of the Théâtre du Grand-Guignol, and a significant fracturing of mimesis doesn’t hollow the efficiency of The Lobster as a poignant love story.
The Lobster hand over fist, surrenders moments that seem sublime, even supernatural, and these moments seem made from quotidian, even mundane materials: a waiter refilling a glass of water, a child’s tantrum, a couple gently holding hands, or a walk in the woods. To find such sublimity is one of cinema’s greatest nobilities and gracious gifts. To that end, The Lobster is a gracious and benevolent beast.
Taste of Cinema rating 4.5 stars (out of 5)