What would you do in a world where you must have a partner, lest you be turned into an animal of your choosing?
Colin Firth plays David, whose marriage of 12 years (11 years and one month to be precise) has come to an end, where he finds himself in a lush hotel reserved for those who are single. Upon his introduction he is shown his room. His room number is 101 – a perfect sign for what is to come – and is told the laws of the land. If he does not find a partner within 45 days he will be turned into an animal and set loose into the woods. He is told that most people pick a dog, which is why the world is filled with so many dogs. Obvious, really. David’s choice is a Lobster. I won’t tell you why as it will ruin one of the many, many hilarious moments that the first half of this film is filled with. Among them is the 1984 references, which go further than his room number as he is woken every morning with a stern announcement of how many days he has left. The couples are also kept separate from the single people, as if a they are a class above them. David is able to make a couple of friends, a man with a lisp (John C. Reilly), and a man with a limp (Ben Whishaw)… who had an ex-wife who also had a limp.
The sold out crowd I saw this with was roaring with laughter, as even the narrator gets in on the act, with countless deadpan jokes that shouldn’t be funny. But they are, and I found myself slapping my knees while crying from laughter. A lot of the humour stems from the singles trying to meet other people, the ticking time-bomb of their 45-day stay, and of course discussing among themselves which animals they would like to become. Nothing is sacred in this movie, it will make a joke of anything, including a suicide attempt. Needless to say, I counted at least four walk-outs. But hey, their loss!
One person didn’t walk out mid-film but I overheard her talking to her partner/husband. Her reaction was incredibly pessimistic and insulting, as in addition to hating the movie, she stated that anyone laughing at or enjoying the film, which was almost everyone, had their own problems with what they were laughing at.
Her partner replied that he quite enjoyed it. I had to stifle my laughter to the point that snot was coming out my nose. The couple eyed me strangely and moved on.
Another element of staying within this hotel is the Hunt. At regular intervals the singles invade the woods, the area in this alternate world where single people are banished after being transformed. It is also a kind of rebel base, where single people avoiding the hotel stay. Hence the hunt; armed with tranquiliser guns, each single person is required to try and bag themselves a single person to be taken back to the hotel. Days are added to their stay if their aim is true.
To go on further would ruin the movie for any kind folk reading this, but this film is essentially separated into two halves. The first half is based in the hotel, while the second half moves to the woods. Deep down, under all the humour, is a love story that is not only touching, but, as well as the entire film, offers numerous comments on modern relationships. How we court others, the dedication one can have for another, the perceived need to share interests in common, I could go on. Having not been in a relationship in a fairly long time, I’m sure I took away a different perspective than anyone who has just had a relationship end, or someone in a relationship currently. The true genius of The Lobster is its ability to weave so many themes within the raucous comedy, which slows just a little in the second half of the film but is no less funny.
This is director Yorgos Lanthimos’ first film in English, and having never heard of him, I am very keen to see more. Not only was the camerawork unique but he also got the most out of his actors, Colin Firth in particular is extremely restrained and barely shows any emotion for the entire movie, adding more humour to the situations he finds himself in.
If I were to slap a label on this work I’d label it a surrealist, absurdist romantic comedy. This obvi0usly is not for everybody, as its humour is very far from the crowd-pleasing, user-friendly jokes (I’m looking at you, The Martian) that so many Hollywood productions are filled with. The humour is arresting, it is in your face and it is not for everyone. However, if this sounds like your cup of tea, you’ll be treated to an extremely unique view on modern relationships and the oddities that often arise, all while you are laughing at the extremely ludicrous jokes.
This film wins the full six-pack from me. I can’t think of a time I laughed so hard.
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