This movie takes a trip down the rabbit hole into a dystopian future where you must be married, or be turned into an animal.
The Lobster is set in a dystopian future where, people must have a romantic partner. Most of the people in this world also have a rather stiff, measured and direct manner about them. This could be a product of being afraid to fully express themselves or, more likely, an affectation to increase the awkwardness of the film.
The main character, David (Colin Farrell), was left by his wife for another man. So, he heads to a hotel that specializes in creating new couples. Singles are given 45 days to find a romantic partner. If they can’t, they are turned into an animal of their choice. David says he would like to be turned into a lobster since they live to be 100 years and remain virile (hence the name of the movie).
All rules and activities at the hotel are geared toward coupling people. Throughout their stay, the singles attend dances to meet one another. The men also receive sexual stimulation from the Maid (Ariane Labed). However, masturbation is restricted under threat of corporal punishment (like having your hand cooked in a toaster). This is meant to further incentivize the men to find a mate. Hotel residents can also get extra time at the hotel by going on hunts and finding “loners” in the woods and tranquilizing them. The loners are returned to the hotel and, presumably, turned into animals.
While at the hotel, David befriends two other men – Robert (John C. Reilly), who speaks with a lisp; and John (Ben Whishaw), who walks with a limp. John decides that it’s better to lie than to be turned into an animal. He’s attracted to the “Noseblled Woman” (Jessica Barden), so, he starts to secretly injure himself in order to induce nosebleeds. After using this to find common ground with her, the two become a couple and moved to the couples side of the hotel. Following John’s lead, David decides to go after the “Heartless Woman” (Angeliki Papoulia), an apparent psychopath and the Hotel’s best Loner hunter. This means that David must also become a terrible, heartless person. The rouse works for a while, but falls apart when the Heartless Woman tests David’s heartlessness by kicking his dog to death. The Heartless Woman tries to report David to the Hotel Manager but, with help from the Maid, David tranquilizes the Heartless Woman and drags her into the transformation room to be turned into an unknown animal.
David flees from the Hotel and goes into the woods where he meets a group of Loners. Aside from being the prey in the Hotel hunts, the Loners are a group that is free to be single. They are also working to take the hotel down in a grand operation that is meant to break up all the couples there. The Loner Leader (Lea Seydoux) welcomes David, but tells him that any romantic interaction is forbidden and is punishable. David sees evidence of the kind of punishment they deliver when he sees two people who had their lips sliced open for kissing each other. This is called the “red kiss”, there’s also a punishment called the “red intercourse”. Not long after coming to the Loner camp, David falls for the Short-Sighted Woman (Rachel Weisz). The woman also falls for him, and they find a way to communicate using complex, silent signals in order to talk to each other secretly.
Despite their secrecy, they can’t hide their affection for one another and the Loner Leader notices how close David and the Short-Sighted Woman have become. She discovers that they plan to escape the Loner camp and move to the City. The Loner Leader and the Maid trick the Short-Sighted woman into having an operation that leaves her blind. Presented with the loss of the thing that they share, David and the Short-Sighted Woman (I guess, Blind woman now) must find a way to make their relationship work again.
Eventually, they figure out another plan to flee and live together. David attacks the Loner Leader and ties her up. He throws her in an open grave and leaves her to the mercy of some wild dogs while they flee to the City. They go into a restaurant and sit together for a while. David goes into the bathroom and takes a knife and holds it in front of his eye. Before it’s shown whether or not he goes through with blinding himself, the camera cuts to black.
This is the kind of dark comedy that you almost feel bad laughing at. They did a great job of capturing a feeling of discomfort and awkwardness. All of that is used to amplify the situations that are an obvious commentary on the way that people behave around the subject of relationships. In the movie the extreme value put on relationships is amplified to the point that not being one makes you less than human. When the Loners are introduced, you find a group of people who are equally extremely committed to the idea of being single. They go to excessive lengths to keep themselves single and, on top of that, don’t want anyone else to be happy in a relationship. They situations that the characters find themselves in are easily identifiable for people who’ve dealt with other people’s hangups about whether someone should or should not be in a relationship.
As obvious as the big themes are, there are some equally obvious (in the best way) jabs at different aspects of relationships. One of my favorites is the idea that people form relationships based almost completely on a single shared characteristic. Another one was the assertion that if a couple was having trouble, they would be provided with a child because that had proven to keep couples together.
Even though the message is funny, it’s packaged in a movie that I can only really describe as weird. It’s awkward, dry, dark comedy that makes you feel uncertain of whether or not what you’re watching is funny or terrible. In some cases it is both, but it’s hard to gauge what the reaction should be. The characters fluctuate from fitting into the matter-of-fact world that the movie creates to being unexpectedly and almost childishly emotional in a way that gives the movie a lift in the right spots. The performances of the entire cast are exactly what’s called for to make the movie work. That impressed me because, I imagine, it can’t be easy to act out these bizarre characters.
Despite it’s awkwardness, I loved the message of this movie. I do wish it was something that I could share with more people but, this is definitely not the kind of movie that you’d casually pop in to watch with friends.
The Lobster (2015)
- Gloriously awkward, unique, and dark comedy
- Feels like some kind of dark fairy tale
- Great performance from Colin Farrell
- Outstanding commentary on the way people form and evaluate relationships
- Movie can become very confusing and uncomfortable
- You never get the full scope of the world that they live in