The Lobster written and directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (A24, Film4, Irish Film Board, Eurimages, R, 119 min)
Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Jessica Barden, Olivia Coleman, Ashley Jensen, Ariane Labed, Angeliki Papoulia, John C. Reilly, Léa Seydoux, Michael Smiley, and Ben Whishaw.
Seeing the World through Black Mirror
Having recently finished the utterly creepy anthologized series, Black Mirror, I’ve begun to see the world through its nihilistic lens. Facebook is not a platform by which people can remain connected worldwide, but rather a data collection agency hellbent on swaying opinion to the highest bidder. A smart phone does not provide ubiquitous access to every possible thing someone might need on any given day, but rather a slot machine engineered to hook us into the addiction of checking the phone each day.
While I recognize the need to read the foundational text (it’s on my TBR list), I’m mindful of the arguments Jacques Ellul puts forward on technology. While admitting to its necessity, technology represents a medium by which humanity can either humanize society or dehumanize society. In other words, Facebook can be the great connector while simultaneously operating toward nefarious ends. The technology itself isn’t evil, but the decision matrices behind its use can be evil.
Considering the ways in which we order, organize, and efficiently operate society, Yorgos Lanthimos’ black comedy, The Lobster links closely to the philosophical foundations of Black Mirror, minus certain tech-focused narratives and with a sprinkle of oddball humor.
Prerequisite of Coupling
Set in a dystopian near future, The Lobster outlines a society where access to the economic and cultural wealth of the City demands a prerequisite of coupling. The people without a significant other must take vacancy in the Hotel, a mandatory speed-dating retreat center where these individuals have 45 days to meet a significant other and form a relationship in order to regain access to the City.
Failure to form a relationship within 45 days results in banishment from the human world. More plainly, the people who fail are turned into an animal of their choice.
However, the visitors of the Hotel have an opportunity to add days to their stay by going on hunts in the wilderness, where single outlaws live in their solitary, uncoupled joy.
If David Doesn’t Find a Soulmate, He Will Become a Lobster
With this absurd backdrop, The Lobster focuses on David (Colin Farrell), a recently divorced man who enters the Hotel with his brother—a dog; his brother failed in his 45-day stay earlier. Here, David befriends Lisping Man (John C. Reilly) and Limping Man (Ben Whishaw) and the trio proceeds with the awkward dating rituals we encounter in our society, such as short, observational dialogue around shared interests.
As David’s time diminishes, he becomes more desperate and targets a heartless, nihilistic woman (Angeliki Papoulia); he tries to force a relationship despite any credible evidence of compatibility. As the tension of the situation builds, David decides to take drastic measures, increasing the absurdity of the film while simultaneously building the world further.
Despite a bleak premise, The Lobster unveils itself in an entertaining manner. A pudgy Colin Farrell provides believability to an odd situation and the off-kilter dialogue reinforces the unease of the entire scenario. Beautifully shot, The Lobster is worth your time, even if the dread and darkness of a Black Mirror comparison isn’t for you, the humor shines through to give the film balance. Recommended.
Verdict: 4.5 out of 5