“The Lobster” is a dark satire and a bleak romantic comedy, a movie designed to both make you laugh at the absurdities of life and also bemoan the depths of despair possible within basic human existence. Alternating between funny and sad in such a way that the two become nearly indistinguishable, this is an interesting and unique movie that will delight some and repel others, depending on whether or not you are on board with what this movie has to say.
In the world of “The Lobster,” marriage is compulsory and single people are given 45 days to find their soulmate or else they get turned into the animal of their choice and let loose in the wild. We start the movie with David (Colin Farrell), freshly single when his wife leaves him for someone else, and he is immediately sent to The Hotel, where the single folk start their Find Your Soulmate challenge. At this Hotel he meets other single people, and the first half of the movie is about them all adjusting to the weird rules of The Hotel and trying to match up with some of the other unfortunate loners checked in with them. There is also a band of loners who escaped The Hotel and live in the woods, militantly preparing for something kind of vague, and David gets wrapped up with them as well.
This movie very effectively sets up this pretty shitty world, a drab and grey place in which everything is beige, clothes are homogenized, and The City is patrolled by police officers who question single people on sight, demanding to see their papers. They don’t really get into the actual details of this “find a mate” thing because the residents of The Hotel include older folks as well as some much younger people, like fresh out of high school young, so maybe they expect everyone to be coupled up by 18 years old? If so, there should have been a lot more fat, nerdy, socially awkward teenagers there, arguing with each other about whether or not they could be turned into dragons (cause if they could, I would totally just wait my 45 days and then be turned into a dragon). This is a cruel world, indifferent to the single people, shown in the way a particular resident tells everyone that he has been admitted to The Hotel a mere five days after his wife died, which is a bummer. So this world sucks.
But David lives in it, and he does what everyone else does, and he boils himself down to a single “defining characteristic” and then seeks a woman with the same trait. He is shortsighted, so any woman with eyeglasses would be fair game. Others try to pair up with people based on ridiculous things like limps and nosebleed problems and even general heartlessness, an obvious commentary on the superficiality of how we pick potential partners, especially in this world of online dating profiles and apps and what not. This emphasis on matching via a single trait leads to some duplicity by some of the residents, with varying degrees of success, and it really does echo how we present ourselves in a certain way to certain people to make ourselves seem more attractive and desirable when we know deep inside we are faking it. People feign interest in things all the time just to be with someone, and sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. And so it goes in “The Lobster,” just boiled down to a ludicrous concept.
Since the central conceit of this movie is so ridiculous, they downplayed everything, wisely having every character just play it straightforward, making the absurdity of the world around them seem that much more plausible and believable. The plot and story also never venture into the “whys” of this world, the whole reason for these strict rules and weird set up, and that’s probably for the best as well, because in “The Lobster,” this is just the way the world works and everyone understands it, so it never needs to be explained to them. It is not like David woke up in some alternate dimension or parallel universe like he’s in “The Twilight Zone,” for him everything is the way it should be and he just has to deal with it. Sound familiar?
While well made, “The Lobster” definitely is not a movie for everyone, as some people will not like the weird conceit of the film, while others won’t like the way the story unfolds and changes and turns as it goes. And on top of that, there is quite a bit of ambiguity to this movie, questions purposefully left unanswered, and this can lead to some fun discussions afterwards or it can just leads to a case of storytelling blue balls, and that is definitely a matter of subjectivity. Overall I liked the movie, though I think I may have been expecting more. Then again, I didn’t really know what to expect, save for the fact I was going to see something kind of different and unique, and for sure “The Lobster” is both of those things.