Thursday 9 April 2020

Movie Review: The Lobster (2015)

A dystopian satire and dark comedy, The Lobster pokes fun at the rules and social norms of dating and mating in an imaginative story of loneliness, loss and love.

In the near future, society shuns single people. Those without partners willingly check-in to a tightly controlled resort where they have 45 days to mingle and fall in love with a mate. If they fail, they are transformed into an animal of their choosing.

Introverted David (Colin Farrell) is newly single and enters a resort where every detail is supervised by a Manager (Olivia Colman). He befriends John (Ben Whishaw), who limps, and Robert (John C. Reilly), who lisps. Common traits are a prerequisite to finding love, and so John bruises his nose to connect with a woman (Jessica Barden) who suffers from chronic nose bleeds. With his days running out David is almost resigned to being transformed into a lobster, but fakes heartlessness to forge a relationship with a merciless woman (Angeliki Papoulia).

Meanwhile the resort guests are regularly sent on hunting expeditions to tranquilize and capture "loners" who pursue a single lifestyle of forest foraging. The loner Leader (Léa Seydoux) forbids romance, but when David experiences the loner life he meets and quickly falls in love with a short-sighted woman (Rachel Weisz).

With a unique visual style and distinctively reserved and halting dialogue, director and co-writer Yorgos Lanthimos mercilessly exposes the couplehood obsession fueled by superficial tools. In the twisted world of The Lobster twosomes are venerated but finding a soulmate is a matter of manufacturing superficial commonalities, with omnipresent overseers evaluating compatibility and intervening at will.

And the ironic futility of overreaching social orders is further exposed with the loners eschewing societal rules but outlawing love by decree. David cannot win. He struggles to find a mate at the resort, then again falls afoul of expectations by stumbling into a love among the loners.

The first half of the film is stronger as Lanthimos embarks on a sly journey of discovery, peeling away the layers of his bizarre world. The ridiculous premise re-imagines the societal fascination with the love life of others, pushing towards an organized extreme in a technology-free future. Here mall cops stop shoppers to demand partner confirmation, and back at the resort, hopelessly amateurish nightly skits compare the dangers of being alone (choking to death; getting raped) to the benefits of being a couple (the Heimlich maneuver; a discouraged rapist).

The second half is more traditional in exploring the illicit love between David and the short-sighted woman, and the film almost visibly runs out of steam, most of the good ideas exhausted early. But far from getting encrusted, The Lobster is a memorable sharp jab at a judgmental culture.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.


  1. I was very hesitant to watch this, but I'm very glad I did. It was beyond quirky, and took some unexpectedly dark turns. Love your insight into it. The paragraph where you spell out why David can't win is the fulcrum upon which the film precariously rests. Great observation.

    1. I also steered clear of this one for a while but finally took the plunge. Despite some faults, it is delightful when a filmmaker has the courage to present such fearless originality.


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