Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos. U.K. Greece, Ireland. 2015

Talking Pictures alias







About Us


The premise of Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest absurdist film (or should we simply say “absurd”) The Lobster is that those who are unmarried have forty five days to choose a mate or are turned into animals.  This is something my mother might have said but even she would have offered the possibility of clemency. Co-written by Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou, the film continues the same style as Dogtooth with wooden characters that are tight-lipped, undeveloped emotionally and uncertain about how to handle their desire for companionship. Like those in Charlie Kaufman’s animated satire Anomalisa, everyone has the same robotic presence, perhaps a commentary on the way people relate to each other these days.

The film stars Colin Farrell as David, a dumpy-looking middle aged man whose wife thought better of their relationship and split. In the world he finds himself in, hopefully sometime far in the future or on another planet, it is against the law to be single, though we don’t learn whether it is a felony or a misdemeanor. In any event, David is checked into a hotel with other unfortunates who must choose to register as either hetero or homosexual and must decide on the kind of animal they would like to become if they cannot find a match. It is a serviceable place to spend one’s last days as a human, but it is not the Grand Budapest.

Unlike most who choose to become a dog, David wants to be a lobster because they live one hundred years and remain fertile, though that’s really not an asset when you are thrown into boiling hot water, but I guess if you like water, why not? The people are friendly sorts but are not big on warmth or caring. The hotel manager (Olivia Coleman) and her husband (Garry Mountaine) are likable enough as is the maid (Ariane Labed) but David hits it off mostly with two hotel guests, “the limping man” (Ben Whishaw) and “the lisping man” (John C. Reilly). The drive is to find a match, someone who shares the same physical characteristics with you, such as a bloody nose or a hatred for other people such as one known as “The Heartless Woman” (Angeliki Papoulia). She’s a real sweetheart.

Naturally, you may have to work at being heartless to gain her approval, though many people already have considerable experience. Aside from Las Vegas type galas with the manager and her husband providing the entertainment, the only approved playtime activity is to go hunting in the nearby forest to subdue and capture those poor souls designated as the “Loners.” These are the dreaded single people, those without a partner that they can spend their lives fighting with. Neither the Loners nor the hotel hotties are big on sex but talking to each other is okay, at least if you don’t call for a political revolution which seems to be in the air these days. Since masturbation is frowned upon and is rewarded by having your hands stuck in a toaster, there is little else to do but talk.

To the ominous strains of an original score by Johnnie Burn, David finally says enough is enough with this rot and escapes into the woods where he joins up with the Loners but finds out that they have rules which are just as rigid. Guided by their uptight leader (Lea Seydoux), who is so cold that butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, they go to the opposite extreme, prohibiting any attempt at a love relationship. When David meets Rachel Weisz, however, the first sign of something positive emerges but their forbidden relationship takes the film into even more difficult and disturbing territory, not recommended for small children.

Lanthimos’ first English-language film evokes strong reactions from viewers by simply holding up a mirror and letting us see our reflection or, perhaps even more disturbing, sense the direction in which we are headed. It is not a pretty sight and The Lobster is not a pleasant experience unless you are a blind man looking in a dark room for a black cat that isn’t there. While “dystopian” films such as this can be looked upon as a warning or cautionary tale, the question must be asked whether, in relentlessly envisioning the future as taking place in a bleak and lifeless world, they might actually be helping to create it.


Howard Schumann

Search this site or the web        powered by FreeFind
Site searchWeb search
   Home | News | Features
    Book Reviews | About Us