'You thought about what animals you want to be if you don't make it?'
Set in a nearby dystopian future in which single people are taken to The Hotel and given 45 days to find a suitable partner before they are turned into an animal of their choice and released into the wilderness, we follow David (Colin Farrell), a now captive divorcee who, despite the rules of The City, escapes to the woods before his 45 days are up and falls in love with a 'Loner' (Rachel Weisz).
Surreal, dead-pan and a little bit odd: Yorgos Lanthimos presents us with a quirky yet charming satire that, in its own socially awkward and darkly humorous way makes a commentary on our generation's dating culture, and the pressures people face to partner up or stay single. Having cleverly chosen to become a lobster - supposedly picked for its long maximum lifespan potential (when it's not being caught and cooked, that is) and its lifelong libido - in the unfortunate event that he fail to find his perfect match in the allocated timespan, David gets to grips with the rules of The Hotel. Some of the film's funniest moments spring from his and the audience's discovery of its strange tests and regulations, the first of which involves David having to spend a night with one hand shackled behind him, in order to truly appreciate the value of having two. Hotel staff hold demonstrations and tutorials exemplifying the way in which normal, everyday tasks are made more difficult or dangerous for singletons, while the Hotel manager, played by a dryly humorous Olivia Coleman, explains that even as animals, certain species pairings just can't work. A wolf and a penguin? Together? "That would be absurd."
The film is narrated by Rachel Weisz who plays an unnamed member of a reactionary extremist group of singletons called 'The Loners'. They live an untamed existence in the woods nearby the hotel, rejecting the idea of coupledom altogether to lead lives of solitude, devoid of even a smidgen of flirtatious small-talk. While at first only commentating on and explaining aspects of David's story, Weisz's character is later tangled into it, intertwining their paths in this strange world, with the true heart of the film revealing itself in the second half. However, David later learns that this fundamentalist camp is no less lenient than its pro-couple counterpart.
Couples in this world, it seems, are formed on the basis that they have at least one thing in common, most often one of their defining characteristics or disabilities. John C.Reilly's character with a speech impediment is appropriately credited as 'Lisping Man'. Ben Whishaw's character is also suitably credited as 'Limping Man', though when he falls for a girl who is prone to nosebleeds, in a desperate attempt to avoid the fate that awaits all unlucky singletons, he starts purposely whacking his head in secret to induce nosebleeds in the hope of having something in common with the, again aptly credited, 'Nosebleed Woman' played by Jessica Barden. Through this, Lanthimos seems to argue that the flaws each couple shares and uses to identify with one another are no less dubious than a shared interest in cooking, a love of Broadway musicals, or an enthusiasm for Sci-fi films, and really, who's to say otherwise?
The film presents us with a wacky yet interesting deconstruction of our society's shallow and superficial means of dating, both online or otherwise that have arisen in the past 15 years. For a lot of people, ending up 'forever alone' is a very real fear, causing many to rush into relationships in fear of judgement from friends and family that they're somehow undesirable, or that they happen to not be following the natural plan society expects of them by a certain age, or that there just has to be something inherently wrong with them if they haven't found 'the One' by now. When you think about it all, the rationale behind all the rules imposed in The Lobster don't seem so crazy or far-fetched afterall, do they?
With a classic, melodramatic score, beautifully framed shots and an at times dreamlike aesthetic, The Lobster succeeds in putting across its not-so-subtle critique of contemporary culture with dry wit, black comedy and a touch of feeling. Though very peculiar, it all works in context.