The Lobster
dir Yorgos Lanthimos
scr Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
prd Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Yorgos Lanthimos, Lee Magiday
with Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Lea Seydoux, Olivia Colman, Ben Whishaw, Jessica Barden, Angeliki Papoulia, John C Reilly, Ashley Jensen, Ariane Labed, Michael Smiley, Garry Mountaine
release UK 16.Oct.15
15/Ireland Film4 1h58
The Lobster
Meen seeking women: Reilly, Whishaw and Farrell

weisz seydoux colman
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Lobster Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth) makes his English-language debut with this blackly comical satire about how society pressures us into relationships. It's telling and complex, and it feels like two movies mashed together, plus a very dark coda. But an up-for-it-cast brings out layers of meaning while keeping us laughing brittlely.

After his wife leaves him, David (Farrell) moves into a hotel for single people in the rain-swept Irish countryside. He has 45 days to find a partner before he's transformed into the animal of his choosing, a lobster. He tentatively befriends a man (Whishaw) who fakes nosebleeds to connect with a young woman (Barden). So David tries to be more like a cold-blooded woman (Papoulia). When he's found out, he flees into the woods, joining a gang of loners and meeting a woman (Weisz) who's short-sighted like he is. But romance is forbidden between loners.

The script's observations are fiendishly clever, as the characters are just as constrained by their own expectations as by the rules. So by pushing things to the extreme, the filmmakers inventively highlight some very real issues in present-day society. This sometimes gets a bit too pointed (unwanted singles essentially become pets), and the plot also indulges in a few contrived action elements (as the loners try to sabotage couples' relationships). But Lanthimos holds his nerve right to the end.

And the actors all dive in without hesitation. Farrell transforms himself physically into a middle-aged man, plump after decades of marital bliss and without a clue what to do next. Timid and awkward, he's easy to identify with even when he boils over into violent rage. Weisz is also riveting as a smart woman who has been cornered like her favourite meal, a rabbit. And Colman is the other standout as the deadpan hotel manager casually making fateful decisions about her guests.

This is an often unnerving exploration of how society legitimises some people and marginalises others according to seemingly random rules. It vividly portrays pressures from culture, family, friends and from within ourselves using sharp-edged comedy and submerged emotions. It's a rare movie that is utterly unpredictable from beginning to end, constantly forcing us to examine our own morality and the way we view ourselves and the people around us based on irrelevant factors. And since it works on such a deeply personal level, it's the kind of film that's hard to shake.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 3.Aug.15

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