An Alternative Guide To Dating In Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Lobster”

Lyndon Wells takes a look at Yorgos Lanthimos’ fascinating – and at times infuriating – alternative drama The Lobster that comically satirises the human custom of dating. The result is a mixed bag…

The Lobster film review - Top 10 FilmsThe Lobster is a strangely glum, but darkly comic satire on the human custom of dating. The film is set in an undefined future where the recently single or unattached must book into a hotel where they have 45 days to find a romantic match or be turned into an animal of their choosing.

For his first English-language film, director and writer Yorgos Lanthimos has gathered an impressive ensemble cast. If you have seen any of his previous work, such as Dogtooth or Alps, the tone of this absurdist satire will not be a surprise. For many this will be their first experience of the celebrated new–wave director and what an experience it is.

Colin Farrell is the forlorn main character that checks into the hotel with his dog (his brother) after being ditched by his wife. The hotel manager, played by the superb Olivia Coleman, welcomes him with a discussion of what animal he should like to become if the process fails. An effectively emotionless Farrell has decided upon a lobster “because lobsters live for over one hundred years, are blue-blooded like aristocrats, and stay fertile all their lives. I also like the sea very much”.

The Lobster film review - Top 10 Films

This quote magically captures the tone and delivery of this film. Some may find the mechanical delivery jarring, but it provides all the best comic moments especially Rachel Weisz’s voiceover. These moments are darkly comic as the automaton speech is often set against potentially distressing scenes. Ben Whishaw, John C. Reilly and Ashley Jensen are all hotel guests that deliver fine-tuned comic performances of desperation.

The film is often surreal with a number of shocking sequences based around the hotel rules, including having your hand rammed into an electric toaster for enjoying the forbidden indulgence of masturbation. Another one of the hotel rules is going on a hunt for fundamental singletons known as “loners” who live in the woods of the hotel grounds. Shooting one earns the guest another day at the hotel in their quest for a match. This creates a standout slow-motion comic sequence of a uncoordinated woodland chase set to an incongruous soundtrack.

Whilst in the hotel the film is hilariously creepy, but all momentum is lost as it abandons the hotel setting and the deadpan style becomes a lesser mannerism. The film joins the loners who are a parallel society that is just as weird and insistent on its non-coupledom rules. A whole new collection of characters are introduced including loner leader Lea Seydoux, Michael Smiley and narrator Rachel Weisz. Whilst Weisz is the only character given any development, the emotional investment asked of her character is a stretch.

The second half of the film becomes tiresomely glum and loses much of the comic elements. The satire appears custom built for cinephiles that enjoy a unique self-aware macabre tone. Unfortunately it falls short of appealing to a wider audience when the film drops its hotel setting and loses interest in the extraordinary animal transformation process.

The Lobster Three stars

Written by Lyndon Wells

The Lobster film review - Top 10 FilmsDirected by: Yorgos Lanthimos
Written by: Efthymis Filippou, Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weis, Léa Seydoux
Released: 2015 / Genre: Drama / Country: Ireland/UK/Greece/France/Holland / IMDB
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About the Author
A film geek and cinephile masquerading as a Doctor, husband and father. With my dog Bilbo by my side I seek to prescribe a healthy movie experience through accurate diagnostics. Find me on Twitter: @lwellsfilm

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  1. Avatar
    CineGirl Reply

    I must admit to being blown over by The Lobster. It’s surreal and downbeat, a little too glum for some I suspect, but it has a depth underneath some very funny moments. It holds up a mirror to modern society asking why we feel the need to fit a prescribed mould as if individuality – and the ability to live life alone – should be shunned. I agree that the second half isn’t as effective as the first but overall it’s a film that should be celebrated because it’s unique, unpredictable and demands repeat viewing.

  2. Avatar
    Hubble Reply

    We need more films like The Lobster. I loved it.

  3. Avatar
    Rory Reply

    Yeah, thought it lost its way a bit in the second half but still a fascinating film. Some delightful performances and a great offbeat sense of humour.

  4. Avatar
    Amanda Reply

    Haven’t ventured out to the cinema in ages but made the effort with this one and loved it.

  5. Avatar
    Lyndon Wells Reply

    Agree we do need more films like the Lobster and after watching it a second time I cannot bring myself to give it more than 3 stars. It is a fascinating film with some real depth alongside many darkly comic moments. But I enjoyed the first half so much within the setting of the hotel and discovery of the many rules that I wanted to continue with that setting. When it goes into the woods the film almost starts again with a news cast of characters abandoning all the previous great ground work. It isn’t bad but just no-where near as good as the first half. I feel if the film stuck with the hotel setting it could have been so much better.

    All that being said love Lea Seydoux’s line in the woods:
    “We dance alone. That’s why we only play electronic music.”

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