You cannot rightfully claim to have seen everything until you have seen “The Lobster,” one of the most singularly strange stories I have ever seen, especially one with mainstream stars, in this case Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz. The premise sets us in a bizarre dystopian society where being single is illegal, and those who fail to pair off are turned into animals. It only gets stranger from there, with violence, sex and humor visited shockingly upon the viewer until literally the last moment of the film.
To sell this vision to us, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos plays it completely straight. Deadpan, awkward delivery seals the world completely unto itself, and it’s pointless to wonder why or how the world came to be like this. When a film obeys its own logic so completely, the story just works.
And what a story. If you are tired of all the sequels, reboots and recycled plots, this will be a breath of fresh air. Well, maybe not “fresh” exactly. When the film opens, Farrell’s wife is leaving him, and consigning him, therefore, to a very unpleasant next chapter in his life, one in which he is taken to a seaside hotel and, for 45 days, put through a series of events during which he must find a mate from among the other guests. He has with him his brother, a dog, and when asked which animal he’s planning on becoming if he, too, fails to pair off, he declares the titular lobster.
Everyone is dressed identically and attends awkward mixers; one of the many themes of this film is a merciless skewering of society’s thrust toward marriage. I would love to hear what a single person thought of this film; is its utterly dark vision all too accurate? A scene in which a successfully coupled girl bids farewell to her best friend the night before she gets turned into a pony, and the single girl slaps her condescending friend across the face, rang fairly true.
When the guests aren’t watching skits about the dangers of being single or enduring the many other strange rituals of the hotel, they are hunting for single escapees with tranquilizer darts. For each single person captured, the hunter gets one extra day. Farrell eventually pursues a heartless hunter who has secured herself hundreds of extra days. When his romance with this woman is (horrifyingly) thwarted, Farrell joins the ranks of these single fugitives.
On the lam, Farrell meets a beautiful woman (Rachel Weisz) and the brutal leader of the single rebels (Lea Seydoux), and when I saw that the rules of the single society were every bit as brutal as those from which they escaped, I realized the film was nothing short of a horror movie. As a viewing experience, “The Lobster” is as merciless as the world it depicts. The moments of dark whimsy are a vital ingredient in the utterly bleak tone.
Fascinating, surreal and unforgettable, “The Lobster” is an extremely bitter palate cleanser in a sea of cinematic sameness, but you might need a dose of soothing romantic comedy to get to sleep after you watch it. Inventive, haunting and deeply disturbing, I actually hope this is the weirdest movie I see this year.
“The Lobster” is currently available to rent.