Jonathan Rich writes for BleedingCool.com
The Lobster was released in the UK last fall and it is now reaching a wider audience in US theaters and streaming services, but no matter when you view this uniquely bizarre film exploring the codependency of personal relationships you will be thinking about it long after the credits roll.
Probably the best manner to experience this film is to watch the trailer and stop reading this review any further. Knowing nothing more about Colin Farrell’s newly divorced David following strange societal directives to seek a new spouse within 45 days or be devolved into the animal of his choosing (hence the title) prevents an uninformed audience from anticipating the twists and turns director Yorgos Lanthimos has in store for those choosing to ride this introspective roller coaster because the film has so much more in store than just an unusual narrative.
Without spoiling the proceedings too much, David befriends two men during his forced vacation: a lisping John C. Riley who endures a painful penance for masturbation and cunning cohort Ben Whishaw who fakes a physical ailment to bond with Jessica Barden’s empathetic young naïve lover. Their collective foibles ultimately force David to explore the brave new world outside his hotel’s pruned paradise and the plot makes a hard right turn halfway through to change from a stoic critique on dating and marriage to become an odd mix of dark romantic comedy and misadventure without ever losing its edge.
The performances are just as engaging, especially Farrell’s commitment to eschew his matinee idol good looks to portray a pudgy, nearsighted middle-aged man battling both disaffection and solitude. Riley, Whishaw, and Barden have relatively small parts to play but their contributions succinctly add to the subtle madness of it all. When Rachel Weisz enters the story, her character emotes in much the same manner as the actress did in the similarly puzzling The Fountain (2006) and those who enjoyed that sci-fi head scratcher will probably embrace her in this somehow even stranger story.
As unique as The Lobster is, it pays obvious homage to Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic explorations Barry Lyndon (syncopated classical score over silent slo-motion emotion and action), The Shinning (ominous architecture and bold colored patterns), A Clockwork Orange (ocular obsession and the battle of society vs individualism), Eyes Wide Shut (strained emotional attachments and sexual frustration), and Full Metal Jacket (abject behavior and stoic brutality) in terms of both theme and editing. While Kubrick may not be the only auteur to play with these toys, Lanthimos does so with similar success.
Additionally, the director continuously subverts expectations to the point where the audience is left so thrown by various twists, turns, and surprises that when the story slows to a conclusion there is no clear indication of what happens at the end or after. There are indications The Lobster could resolve itself happily ever after or go horribly awry, but the ambiguous resolution is wonderfully debatable.
The Lobster is not a film for everyone, but those who choose to be gripped in its pincers may enjoy both the confused pain and meaty introspection the film offers beneath its shell.
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Jessica Barden, Ben Whishaw and John C. Riley
Runtime: 1hour 58 minutes, Rated R for sexual content including dialogue, and some violence.
Grade: A+ for a uniquely bizarre film that offers both odd entertainment and introspection.
Jonathan Rich is a freelance journalist, high school educator, and self-professed comic book nerd working in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. He writes about entertainment and pop culture for various print and web publications, including bleedingcool.com.