Review: The Lobster (AFI FEST 2015)
PLOT: In the future, men and women who are without a partner are forced to stay in a place simply called The Hotel in order to find a mate. Those who do not succeed and remain single must chose an animal to become to live the remainder of their lives.
REVIEW: If you could be an animal, what would you be? This could have been silly premise is behind what is one of the most genuinely powerful features I’ve seen this year. In THE LOBSTER, single people are gathered in a upper class hotel for forty-five days. If they cannot find a mate during that time, they are transformed into another species of animal. This may seem outrageous, or possibly the concept of a strange creature feature, but it is fantastic work from director Yorgos Lanthimos (DOGTOOTH, ALPS). In his English language debut, the filmmaker manages to create a funny, haunting and provocative work, with a stunning performance from Colin Farrell. This strange mix of humor and disturbing violence is one of the best films I’ve seen at this years AFI Fest.
Colin Farrell is David, a man who recently found out his wife wants out of the marriage. Still in love, he is fully aware of the consequences of being single in this futuristic tale. In fact, he lives with a constant reminder of a grim future with Bob, the dog he keeps who once was his brother. When he is sent to a hotel to either find love or suffer the consequences, he meets others in his same predicament. This includes his new found friends Lisping Man (John C. Reilly) and The Limping Man (Ben Whishaw). While there is much more to the story aside from their stay in The Hotel run by the hotel managers (played by Olivia Colman and Garry Mountaine), it would be a disservice to give away too much. Needless to say that there are others, people who refuse to give into the modern society that have plans of their own. This includes a beautiful girl called only a Short Sighted Woman (Rachel Weisz) and a Loner Leader (Léa Seydoux).
With each character named after either their personality or their disability, the cast is an odd collection of misfits that would feel right at home in a David Lynch film. Yet this is nothing like Lynch and his wildly outrageous landscape of lunatics. THE LOBSTER is a cold and comical display of the horrors that wait for people not accepted by society. Lanthimos presents us with a strange future that may be science fiction, but it is far more grounded in a sort of exaggerated reality. The stereotypes that are represented here are completely distinct, and you get a real sense of their personal demons. With one character narrating David’s experience as we watch, there is a real humor that translates throughout. This is absolutely hilarious at times only to turn into something damn near horrifying.
As David, Colin Farrell is absolutely remarkable. The actor gives this wounded character a warmth, even when he is feigning a heartless mentality for a possible suitor credited as Heartless Woman (Angeliki Papoulia in yet another terrific performance). One scene involving his interaction with a little girl is absolutely hilarious, yet he also finds himself in an incredibly heartbreaking sequence that feels achingly real. Rachel Weisz is also terrific with her monotone way of speaking. With an incredible script by Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou, all the actors manage to find little quirks that make for inspired choices.
If this review is any indication, THE LOBSTER is not the kind of film that will please all audiences. As darkly compelling and wonderfully funny as it is, if you are looking for a light film this is not it. The ideas are presented incredibly well, but this is the type of film you should be fully invested in. The minor details, and the strangely obvious narration will infuriate those looking for something a little less on the weird side. And then there is the final act. Even a few audience members who loved the film had issues with the ending. Clearly left to one’s own interpretation, some may be frustrated by it. However, I for one found that it has stuck with me long afterwards thinking about the ambiguity of it all. It was an intriging way to say goodbye to these characters, even if some will disagree strongly with it.
THE LOBSTER is an exceptionally strange dissection on an uncertain future. At a time when we are quick to make judgements on others, there is a real sense of horror and humor in the literal way we see the characters and their shortcomings or quirks. Hauntingly bizarre, this fantastic film offers a clever visual touch from Lanthimos, a terrific performance from Colin Farrell - among others - and a captivating score. There is so much to love here for those willing to invest in a gloriously original and enthralling work.
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