The Lobster is a biting satire and a timely allegory about societal expectations on relationships thanks to an insightful screenplay, great performances and deadpan humor.
A love story set in the near future where single people, according to the rules of The City, are arrested and transferred to The Hotel. There they are obliged to find a matching mate in 45 days. If they fail, they are transformed into an animal of their choosing and released into The Woods. A desperate Man escapes from The Hotel to The Woods where The Loners live and falls in love, although it is against their rules.
There’s an unspoken stigma against being a solo flyer. The Lobster uses this idea to delivery a quirky social commentary and love story.
The premise is odd but in a good way thanks to its clever screenplay. The first sequence, like the first line in a story, immediately draws you in. Someone shoots an animal. Soon everything makes sense and the audience is left to contemplate the horror of what just happened and what is yet to come.
The rules of this dystopian society are simple but the plot gradually reveals its complications while also delivering a very relatable story. Anyone who has went back to the dating game after a failed relationship will relate to David, but here the stakes present some intriguing but horrifying implications. After failing to secure a partner, the human-turned-animal becomes a pariah who must adapt to a new non-sentient existence. This pushes people to take desperate measures, reducing compatibility to common traits instead of genuine connection.
This doesn’t mean that The Lobster is art-house dreary. It has layered themes, deadpan humor and bursts of violence that result in a ridiculous yet compelling narrative.
The cinematography and production design turns a hotel – similar to the affordable ones in real life – into a distinct world and visual representation of the movie. Everything is tidy, formal and functional, specifically made to restrict its characters to serve one purpose.
The movie’s deadpan delivery, combined with the absurdity of the whole premise, creates funny moments. In the opening scene, David attempts to register as a bisexual to increase his chances. He, along with the other singles, dance and socialize in The Hotel where hosts re-enact dumb sketches on the importance of having a partner. David is able to choose a mate, but ends up trying to please a heartless woman.
The hapless David is played by Collin Farrell who has proven to be a great character actor outside of his Hollywood matinee idol mold. He’s surrounded by a great supporting cast who add a mix of appealing characters that show the effects of the anti-single society they all inhabit.
This includes Rachel Weisz and Leah Seydoux who are members of The Loners, a group created in response to societal norms of The City. David manages to get out of The Hotel and joins these rebels, but only to find that they also have rules of their own. At this point is when the movie runs out of ideas and turn into a contrived and typical forbidden love story. It also veers away from the movie’s intriguing idea – humans turning into animals.
Fortunately, the movie features amusing characters and a clever story that doubles as a social commentary and compensates for these flaws. It examines our society’s obsession with relationships and companionship, reflecting contemporary norms in which dating websites and apps reduce people into a string of traits to match users. It makes a provocative statement about unspoken rules imposed on singles, particularly the expiry date for marriage. More importantly, it satirizes society’s notion that a civilized union cemented by a piece of paper is the be-all and end-all of human existence.
In the end The Lobster finishes the same way it starts, with an event that sums up all these statements and exhibit the main theme – the potentially destructive effects of societal pressures underneath normalcy. Whichever world David ends up in, they’re both dominated by extreme rules that lead to equally extreme measures.
My Rating: 9/10