The Lobster review – a quirky and fresh look at a dystopian future

by | 1 Sep 2016 | Film Reviews

‘David has just been left by his wife which gives him 40 days to find a new partner or face being turned into an animal.’

One of the best things about Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster, apart from the interesting premise, has got to be Collin Farrell’s performance. In the early days of his career he predominately lived off his good looks and had a “bad boy” image that unfairly pidgeon-holed him as the go to guy for playing charming and charismatic characters; basically, an Irish version of Tom Cruise.

Recently though, he seems to be going in the opposite direction and is starting to carve out a career in more independent movies. Films like In Bruges (2008) and Seven Psychopaths (2012) have shown that he also has a talent for the comedic and more dramatic, and The Lobster is the perfect example of this evolution he seems to be going through in his more mature years.

That’s not to say that he still doesn’t do the mainstream from time to time, with him staring in both remakes of Total Recall (2012) and Fright Night (2011) in the last few years. He is far more interesting though these days in the low key, arthouse films he’s been gravitating too currently, and The Lobster couldn’t be more arthouse if it tried, and will actually be an acquired taste for many.

Set in a world where being single is forbidden, Farrell plays a man called David whose wife has just left him for another man. He is taken to a hotel with various other single people where he will have forty five days to find a new partner, or if he fails, be turned into an animal of his choice and released into the wild.

The title comes from David’s choice of animal if he doesn’t make it, due to his love for the sea. It’s the sort of film you could imagine as a wacky comedy with Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly (who funnily enough does appear as a fellow singleton in the hotel) but is played completely straight, which oddly enough only adds to the humour.

In fact, Lanthimos makes sure none of his cast smile at all or show any kind of emotion. The colour palette is kept very dour and the score at times, with its harsh strings, almost gives the impression of watching a horror film, which it certainly has elements of due to the presentation of this dystopian world where life is severely regulated and freedom of choice of how you live is taken away. What makes the film funny though, is the absurdity of the situation these people find themselves in and the interactions between the characters.

What makes The Lobster work as a comedy then definitely goes to the performances. David is a fascinating character and Farrell is able to both make him unlikeable and sympathetic at the same time, showing just enough emotion between the cracks to make us care for him. It’s the complete opposite to what Farrell has done in the past as David is portrayed as an uncharismatic, humourless individual.

He even commits to the role physically, giving up his good looks and even putting on a bit of weight to give a really everyman look. Farrell also proves quite competent in the deadpan style of comedy by playing it painfully straight in the surreal situation he finds himself in. Additionally, he has excellent chemistry with Rachel Weisz, one of the “loners” (people who have rebelled against society and live in the wilderness) he falls in love with.

Despite the emotionless performances, they are able to display real affection between these two characters allowing us to buy into their quirky relationship. Although the focus is clearly on Farrell and to a lesser degree Weisz, The Lobster is also filled with a great supporting cast of British actors including Ben Whishaw, Ashley Jensen, Oliva Colman and Michael Smiley who all help to elevate this film.

‘Lanthimos’ has created a unique world which won’t be to everyone’s taste but is oddly funny in its own way and will certainly require a repeat viewing.’

Farrell proves he’s more than he’s good looks and has more depth and range than people realise as he continues to seek out more interesting and experimental roles. The Lobster is a true Arthouse film and with a real ambiguous ending that will be lingering in the mind long after you’ve watched it.

David Axcell

Film Critic

David has quite a broad taste in film which includes big budget blockbusters and small indie films; including International and Arthouse cinema. As long as it’s good in that particular genre, he’ll watch anything.

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