The Lobster is one of the more unique films to come out in recent times. The cast is fantastic – Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz give incredible lead performances, John C. Reilly brings comedy to balance the film’s darkness, and Olivia Colman and Ben Whishaw are outstanding supports. However it is not the cast, but the movie’s premise and satirical duality that are particularly striking.
The film is about residents of The City, an absurdly dystopian and slightly more futuristic version of a city from our world. Any resident of The City who is single is sent to The Hotel. There, they have 45 days to find a partner, or they are turned into an animal of their choice – Colin Farrell, the main character, plans to become a Lobster.
On top of this, the means for forming a relationship are based on entirely surface-level traits, which comes off as painfully wrong yet strangely accurate. One pair couples up because they both get nose-bleeds (although one of them is faking), and Farrell initially couples with a woman over shared sociopathy – although in his case, this trait is also faked and later unveiled – leading him to escape The Hotel.
Once outside he finds The Loners, a group of people who are strictly against relationships, and spend their time making covert trips into The City and doing lonely activities together, such as holding silent discos. Unfortunately for Farrell, it is in this group of people that he finds a potential partner, and creates further tension to drive the already intriguing plot.
Despite the movie’s objectively absurd premise, it is this absurdity that creates a jarringly real reflection of our own world. On one side of this absurdist mirror, the film is a criticism of the immense pressures placed upon people to be in a relationship, and the objectively strange need for people to bond, at least initially, over arbitrary traits such as having nose-bleeds or being sociopathic.
On the other side, the film criticises those who are alone, in much the same way it criticises couples, which is initially confusing. However part of the film’s power is that not you’re not entirely certain, until the very end, exactly what director Yorgos Lanthimos is trying to communicate.
Even at the end, The Lobster leaves much to interpretation, though one message is clear: much is strange about the way both relationships and being alone are perceived in our world, and both are utterly absurd in their own ways – however much of this perception comes from the outside, from other people.
Lanthimos is perhaps trying to say that it’s pointless to worry about what other people think, as you will simply never please them. Instead, do what you want. If you want be in a relationship, go for it – and try to make it about more than shared traits, especially those that will change over time. On the other hand, there is no problem with being happily alone, and this is just as valid as being in a relationship if it is what you want.
I’ve tried not to spoil too much of the movie. If you haven’t already seen it, it is absolutely worth your time, as it goes far beyond mere storytelling as many modern movies settle for. The Lobster is a powerful vehicle for social criticism and understanding, and one that takes you on a strange, wonderful ride.