An incredibly interesting concept pulled off adequately.
Part European art-house, part offbeat English comedy, The Lobster offers a unique and cynical look into relationships and the stigmatisms surrounding it. Based in a world where being single is illegal, recently abandoned David (Colin Farrell) must suffer the ordeals of The Hotel, a trial that requires the person to find a partner within 45 days, or be turned into an animal of their choosing.
Throughout the film, its satire shines. Romance as we know it is non-existent, replaced with the mundane and regular. People base relationships on “defining characteristics” such as the kind you might fill out on a dating site, however pushing it into the realms of the bizarre, as people base their compatibility on limps, eyesight, and the frequency that they receive nose bleeds. It pokes fun at activities such as speed dating, as well as couples holidays, with the characters dreaming aloud the various trips they’ll take with their spouses. The very concept alone hinges on a spirituality dating question, “if you could be any animal what would you be?”
Despite the strangeness of the concept it isn’t exactly hard to imagine due to the multiple ways it can be imagined. Adam Sandler comedy, horror, quirky romance film, sci-fi, all could be applicable, and that, in part, seems to be the issue with the film. Bordering somewhere between pretention and hilarity this is a film where certain scenes won’t make sense, as they’re focusing on the grander concept, rather than character or plot; then vice versa in the following scene.
It dips between styles, and thus some moments are lost in the translation. The most notable difference is the change between the two halves of the film, with one section primarily on the satire, and the other on drama. This second half slows the pace, and reduces the comedy; a change of tone that doesn’t help the film, and at times causes it to feel stretched out.
Everything on screen is rather brilliant however. The cinematography is clinical in its approach, much like the nature of the world’s inhabitants, only showing what needs to be seen, and as cleanly as possible. Yet it does still allow for the occasional moment of artistic flair, such as the montages of slow motion action, ranging from chase scenes to crossing a busy dance floor, which stand out as the visual highlight of the film. In a similar fashion to the camerawork, the acting is quite minimal, leaving no one looking exceedingly poor or great.
However, once we begin to look at other aspects the film takes a slight dip in quality. For instance the score consists almost entirely of melodramatic strings, used to accentuate every dramatic moment, whilst also showcasing the stupidity of comedic moments. At first this helps for both of the occasions, but towards the end of the film the themes are so repeated that they become rather draining. Not helping at all with the slower pace of the second half.
Were it a film that focused entirely on the first half or the second this could have been incredible, tying together concept and story succinctly. The result though is a film where the term “less is more” would have been helpful. For such a detailed filmmaker it seems strange not to have trusted the concept more, and left the world-building to the details, not the forefront.
The Lobster (2015), directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, is distributed in the UK by Picturehouse Entertainment. Certificate 15.