July 26, 2016

Blu-Ray Review: THE LOBSTER

Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Jessica Barden, Olivia Colman, Ariane Labed, Ashley Jensen, Angeliki Paroulia. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. (2015, 118 min).

The Lobster is one of those films where you're either totally onboard from the get-go or you're screaming for the director's head. There isn't likely to be much middle ground. But love it or hate it, rest assured you've never seen anything quite like it.

In the near dystopian future, Colin Farrell is David, whose wife just left him. Aside from the heartbreak, what makes this a cause for concern is that, in this world, being single is illegal. Anyone who loses their significant other, for any reason, is sent to a posh 'hotel' in the country and have 45 days to find a compatible mate. If unsuccessful, they will be turned into the animal of their choice. David chooses a lobster because of their virility and lengthy life expectancy (providing they aren’t eaten, of course).

Guests can increase their days by going on daily hunting excursions to catch rogue loners lurking in the woods; for each person you snare, one day is added to your time. David isn’t particularly good at this, so he sets his sights on finding a compatible partner. He initially thinks he finds one - a cold-hearted, emotionally vacant woman (Angeliki Paroulia) who’s a expert at catching stray singles - but through circumstances that are both humorous and disturbing, he ends up on the run, retreating into the woods where he falls in with a band of loners.

The loners are the polar opposite of the world around them. Love, companionship and physical affection are completely forbidden, and the penalty for violating the rules is severe. Still, that doesn’t prevent David from falling in love with a woman (Rachel Weisz) whose short-sightedness would have ironically made them legally compatible if they had met anywhere else. While the loners’ leader (Lea Seydoux) makes plans to raid the hotel, David and the woman decide to try and leave the group.

Unable to find the TV remote, Colin is lost.

That’s the nuts-and-bolts plot description of a film that is far stranger and more complex, but to say more would give away its surprises, of which there are many. Writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos obviously has a bigger agenda than the bizarre premise, mostly about how we superficially base the quality of relationships on preconceived ideas of compatibility. The narrative itself also offers an interesting dichotomy between the two worlds presented here. Sure, the conformity required to exist in this dystopian society is disturbing, but the alternative offered by the loners may be even worse. After all, what's life without someone to share our experiences with?

While deliberately paced, The Lobster is consistently engaging, even when it has us scratching our heads. It’s often funny, though the humor is pitch-black. Similarly, these characters may seem cold and emotionally aloof on the surface (David, in particular) until we later realize The Lobster is, at its heart, a deceptively powerful love story with main characters who express their feelings more through actions than words (as exemplified in the very final scene...which is also rather disturbing).

Some of you reading this will certainly hate this film, which is unconventional in every sense of the word, but I bet you'll still be compelled enough to see it through to the end because, if nothing else, The Lobster is unlike anything you've seen before. How often can you honestly say that about a film?

"The Fabric of Attraction: Concocting 'The Lobster'" (pretty interesting making-of doc featuring the cast & director)

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