sat 13/07/2024

The Lobster | reviews, news & interviews

The Lobster

The Lobster

Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz star in a rum dystopian romance

Love will find a way. Or will it? Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz just can’t please anyone in The Lobster

Yorgos Lanthimos is the director who reinvigorated Greek cinema with his dark, absurdist films Dogtooth and Alps. His English-language debut is even more off the charts, yet also the most familiar; after all, it is essentially a love story. 

The proposition of The Lobster is a future society where being single is regarded as a crime. Those found to be alone, even if they’re newly widowed like our hero, John (Colin Farrell), are arrested and despatched to a rural hotel, where they have 45 days to find a partner amongst the other guests. Punishment, for those who fail, is to be transformed into an animal of their choice and released into the wild.

Dumpy and dull, John seems destined to the same fate as his brother, now in the guise of the dog which accompanies him to the hotel. Should it come to that, John himself opts to become a lobster, on the grounds that he likes the sea; he’s forgotten the painful death that awaits should he end up in a restaurant.

The LobsterPresided over by Olivia Colman’s stern hotel manager, the hotel has a touch of the Fawlty Towers about it, as though re-imagined by Beckett or Ionesco. Each of the guests seem to have a physical flaw or trait that makes courting problematic – the man with the lisp (John C. Reilly), the man with the limp (Ben Whishaw, pictured above, with Reilly and Farrell), the woman obsessed with biscuits (Ashley Jensen) and one who can’t stop having nosebleeds (Jessica Barden). One doesn’t hold out much hope for any of them.

But John is a different matter. Farrell, subverting his usual dash with a transformation that also includes an appalling moustache, plays his character in such a deadpan manner that it takes a while to realise that John’s banality conceals some degree of survivor cunning. While many of the other guests invest their effort in the hunting parties – kill yourself a runaway “loner” and you earn more days in the hotel – he has other plans.

As ever with Lanthimos, the point of his extreme scenario is to comment upon the folly of the everyday, in this case the obsession with being in relationships (there is a brilliant running joke here as the guests strive to find something, anything “in common”) and corresponding social discrimination against single people.

Lea Seydoux in The LobsterIn The Lobster the singletons, led by a grim-faced Léa Seydoux (pictured right), take an equally extreme and authoritarian a position as the coupled Establishment, as John eventually discovers when he genuinely falls in love with a short-sighted loner in the woods (Rachel Weisz) but is forbidden to do anything about it. 

Weisz and, in particular, Farrell are phenomenal, maintaining their emotions and their mode of communication to the level of a hum, even when they realise they are in love, their characters’ personalities subdued to an almost unbearable degree; there’s something quite satisfying in seeing Hollywood actors dive into a sensibility that is way leftfield of even most independent films, and adopt the different acting style that it requires.

But the film is very much of two halves, in setting – the hotel, the woods – and success. The first half is strikingly novel, at once edgy and delightfully ridiculous; but in the second the austerity of the loner life sucks the energy and interest out of the film, and the frisson of the satire slowly dissipates. Ultimately, The Lobster is fascinating, funny, but a little under-cooked.

Overleaf: view the trailer for The Lobster


The hotel has a touch of the Fawlty Towers about it, as though re-imagined by Beckett or Ionesco


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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