Festival Review: The Lobster (2015)

The Lobster

A delicious metaphor on romance and the dangers of being single, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster is a strangely perfect world.

Dangerous Liaisons

by Mark Wilshin

The Lobster

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

After the close encounters of his fictional worlds with reality in Alps and Dogtooth, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster enters a fictional cosmos with no way out. Whether in the hotel where single people go to meet their match (in order to return to the city where happy couples live) or in the forest with the loners (radically single and away from the stringent rules of romance), The Lobster offers no reprieve from the inescapable tyranny of love. Following David (Colin Farrell) as he checks himself in at the love hotel after separating from his wife, The Lobster becomes a metaphor for finding a companion, as singletons must find their life partner (preferably with some kind of bodily counterpart such as a limp, lisp or tendency towards nosebleeds) or be transformed after 44 unsuccessful days into the animal of their choice. (David chooses a lobster, as it lives for over 100 years, has blue blood like aristocrats and remains fertile. But it’s man’s fondness for dogs, we learn, and lack of imagination, that means there are so many dogs everywhere and yet still so many endangered species.)

But while the Limping Man (Ben Whishaw) fakes a nosebleed to forge his true love, or the Lisping Man (John C. Reilly) remains at the hotel shooting loners in the forest, David escapes to the forest, where he meets the Short-Sighted Woman (Rachel Weisz) – as myopic as him – and falls in love. As a loner though now, love is outlawed, and when their unwavering leader (Léa Seydoux) finds out, she undoes the couple’s match, blinding the contact-lens wearing woman with deliberately disastrous laser eye surgery. With booming music, a wry voiceover narrative and stagily delivered dialogue during moments of awkwardness, Yorgos Lanthimos does his best to maintain the sense of fiction. And yet, the cosmos of The Lobster remains a consummate world where the interleaving metaphors work on all levels. (Even as flamingos, camels and peacocks walk past.) Colin Farrell is at his best as paunchy, petulant architect David, caught in a childish, almost animalistic world where love is professed in trapped rabbits and an increasingly complicated language of unspoken gestures. There are many fabulous moments, from the terrorist loners destabilising “happy” couples to their wandering in the woods like forest dwellers from François Trufffaut’s Fahrenheit 451. And Lanthimos spares no-one from his scathing satire, with love reduced ad absurdam to the strangest of mating rituals. But with a final cut to black bearing witness to the lengths people will go to to secure The One, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster peaks with an incurably romantic vision that love is blind indeed.

The Lobster is now showing at the London Film Festival

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