REVIEW: The Lobster by Olivia Morris


"Lobsters live for over one hundred years, are blue-blooded like aristocrats, and stay fertile all their lives," David explains, wedged between a floral bedspread and a flat-affect hotel manager.  The characters exist in shades of blue and gray, with their drab clothing and the hotel's muted decorating scheme.  A suited man stands silently in the corner, his head cut out of the frame.  David's voice is monotone as he explains why he would want to be transformed into a lobster, if it came to it.

Colin Farrell stars as David, the central and only named character in the recently released film, The Lobster, whose wife has just left him after twelve years of marriage.  By the laws of this dystopian universe in which the film takes place, any adult person without a partner is required to move into a hotel for six weeks, in order to find another spouse.  If they fail to find a suitable partner, they will be changed into an animal of their choosing.


In this dark comedy, Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos examines the highly inorganic aspect of modern relationships.  On Tinder, people make snap decisions about potential partners, depending on their appearance or the few character cues that can be explained in under 500 characters.  In real life, an adult who has never been married is considered odd or antisocial.  Teenagers feel an immense amount of social pressure to secure a date to prom.  Lanthimos takes these cultural imperatives to the extreme and places his characters in dire situations if they don't have a mate.  The characters cautiously revolve around each other, not looking for love, but rather looking for someone with whom a relationship might seem convincing, at best.  They are attracted to each other because of miniscule details, like something as silly as both individuals being prone to nosebleeds, and even then some of the idiosyncrasies are cultivated. But Lanthimos does this with such an exacting formality that the viewer is left finding humor in the absurdity.  David is completely serious as he explains that he would like to be a lobster because he "like(s) the sea very much."

Lanthimos has been elevated into the class of visually compelling, emotionally provocative sci-fi filmmakers, reminiscent of the work of Spike Jonez, Charlie Kaufman, and Michel Gondry.  Lanthimos gives the dystopian film a sense of contained surrealism.  The most science-y aspect of the film, transforming humans, is left almost entirely untouched.  The overarching tone of dystopia is largely just a catalyst for exploring the real and superficial aspects of human affection, with cutting cynicism.


The brilliance of the movie comes from its perfectly balanced juxtapositions.  From start to finish, from the weather to the wallpaper, from the forest to the city, the color palette of the movie is incredibly bleak.  The colors are muted and underwhelming, in a way that makes every scene seem drained of livelihood.  In a similar fashion, the characters speak clearly, matter-of-factly, and in emotionally blunted tones, blundering awkwardly through comically literal conversations.

In contrast though, the film splices in several scenes of dramatic slow-motion, while Beethoven bursts through the speakers.  There are highly disturbing, bloody scenes that caused half the audience to cover their eyes during.  This disjointing of tonality is intentionally funny, but also adds another layer of creativity.  The overly dramatic scenes are clearly superficial and disjointed, like the relationships in the movie.


The audience had a deeply divided reaction in the theater I was in.  Some left, understandably so.  The movie gets incredibly dilated at points, seeming to stretch and repeat itself unnecessarily.  Rachel Weisz's narration is jarring and doesn't enhance the movie in any direct way.  However, these formulaic, almost robotic tendencies are exactly what thematically anchor the movie.  You cannot go into this film expecting to be blindly entertained or emotionally manipulated.  This movie will not make your heart race.  It won't make you jump or cry.  However, it will make you think intensely about what it means to fall in, be in, or lose love, and whether or not you've ever actually done any of those things.


-- Olivia Morris