I saw The Lobster by accident.
At 6:30 on a Saturday night my friend and I rocked up to the cinemas thinking to catch the 6:40 session of Bridge of Spies, with “Hi, I’m Tom Hanks.” Instead we were greeted by an enormous line of noisy cinema-goers queued up to buy tickets to whatever was on offer, and we watched in dismay as a little red line was drawn through our intended session time. What followed was a frantic search through our phones for the plots of the other movies, but unfortunately most of them were too filled with cancer or plucky bittersweet tales of redemption for our overtaxed minds — bar one. Which was of course The Lobster.
This film stood out with one of the strangest plot summaries either of us had read, starting with its designation as a ‘dystopian rom-com’. So here we go.
In the near future, single people are rounded up and sent to a huge hotel far-off in some remote part of the countryside. The hotel is very nice, with a large dining hall, spa baths, golf courses, room service and all the makings of a luxurious four-star resort offering the perfect getaway from the ominous City and its hordes of PDA-obsessed couples. The trip seems like a pretty great deal until you discover the single people only have forty-five days to find true love before they get transformed into an animal and released into the woods. These woods are populated not only by former humans but also by escaped loners who get hunted down in slow motion by identically-dressed hotel guests armed with tranquilizer guns, who are motivated by the promise of an extra day at the hotel for every loner they bag. While it’s not quite the Hunger Games, it does come pretty close at times.
The Lobster follows in the proud dystopian tradition of films like Mad Max or A Clockwork Orange in taking some absurd and, in this case, very hard-to-buy premise and playing it straight. And I mean dead straight. Every single character in this film has an obsession with delivering (and receiving) horrifying news and pointless mundanities alike in the most disinterested matter-of-fact way possible. The lead star of the non-sequiteers is Colin Farrell, who imbues the main character David with such a dizzying lack of inflection that he succeeds in convincing a heartless woman that he, too, has no heart. This is one of the few things in the movie that is not hard to believe.
But this doesn’t mean the movie’s boring. On the contrary, The Lobster embraces its absurd premise with a staggering variety of scenes packed with awkward interactions, inexplicable occurrences, and truly disconcerting dialogue. And for the most part, director Yorgos Lanthimos nails it, lifting the merely uncomfortable into sputtering hilarity. Combined with the beautiful backgrounds and pleasant framing of the shots, The Lobster is great fun to watch. It’s not perfect — there were a few overlong slow-motion sequences and occasionally unnecessary and very annoying narration — but it has a wonderful, epic story arc that takes it far beyond the original premise to unexpected places.
So I recommend going to see it, but only if you like this brand of off-putting surreal humor, because that’s the only kind The Lobster’s got, and it’s unrelenting.