The Lobster’s biggest flaw is this: it’s a film of two halves. The film’s premise is mostly confined to the first. Single people (in this case, Colin Farrell’s David) are checked into a hotel where they are given forty-five days to find a partner. If they fail to do so, they are turned into an animal of their choosing and released into the wild. From the start, preconceptions about relationships are exaggerated, turned on their heads and made to seem ridiculous. That old adage about partners needing to have something in common is played out to the extreme. In The Lobster’s world, every couple must have a shared defining and boring characteristic (nosebleeds, limps, short-sightedness, and psychopathy), and will go to some lengths to fake them in order to lure in a potential partner. It’s a cynical parody but one that works fantastically with the darkly comic tone of the film. Characters over-enunciate and under-act every line, whilst the lines themselves are childlike and innocent. This is like psychological horror as imagined by Wes Anderson.
Director and co-writer Yorgos Lanthimos balances humour and violence perfectly. Moments of genuine can’t-look-at-the-screen awfulness are made all the more affecting by the characters’ deadpan delivery and commitment. It is equal parts hilarious and harrowing, complemented by Lanthimos direction. He allows characters to remain static in a static shot, their conversational partners hidden off-screen, or holds just longer than expected. It fits well with the deliberately stilted style of the dialogue. Everything feels a little awkward and unsettling.
The hotel scenes play out almost like well-crafted sketches, each revealing a tiny part of the film’s world. Guests are given cold, clinical talks about the benefits of couples, and the hotel manager (played brilliantly by Olivia Colman) talks about the logic behind choosing your animal. The more you find out, the more you want to find out, but director Yorgos Lanthimos makes the very wise choice never to fully flesh out this slightly dystopian world. We are given only glimpses of the bigger picture: a policeman prying into people’s personal lives to determine if they’re single; a woman shooting a donkey that was once, presumably, someone she knew. We can guess at the mechanism of this society but we never know for sure. Most importantly, we never learn why any of this is happening. It makes the characters all the more funny and tragic, pursuing these seemingly pointless goals and never really questioning the world in which they find themselves.
Then the whole film shifts. It’s not that the second half is bad. In fact, it’s arguably as good as the first half. It’s just disconnected. We move away from the hotel and into the woods, where a group of escapees (known as loners) have made their home, a small, twisted society for singles where no romantic attachment is permitted. The hotel and its inhabitants don’t really crop up again. It just seems a waste. Having built this world in subtle increments, deftly hooking in the audience, Lanthimos seems to render all that work almost pointless. The story runs away never to return, leaving the beautiful set up feeling like just that: a set up. The dark love story between David and Rachel Weisz’s ‘short sighted woman’ is just as funny and dark, but the viewer is left wondering when the first and second halves will come together for some resolution. They never really do.
+Full of humour
+Well crafted set-up
The Lobster is insane, funny and terrifying but a disjointed narrative renders it slightly hollow during the second half.
Watch the trailer for The Lobster:
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