The basic premise of The Lobster is laid out clearly in the first few minutes. In a surreal, Kafkaesque dystopian future, David (Colin Farrell) finds himself alone after his wife leaves him for another man. He is taken to The Hotel, where he has 45 days to find a new romantic partner. If he fails, he will be literally transformed into an animal, the titular lobster being his choice.
This premise might conjure up images of a cheesy 70s science fiction setting, but instead, the world is quite quaint and ordinary, with no evidence whatsoever of technology advanced enough to perform flawless human to animal transformations. The perfectly innocuous Hotel, combined with the flat, deadpan delivery of most of the characters, creates an atmosphere of bizarre creepiness, which only grows as the movie progresses.
The pace of the film is very slow and deliberate, and gradually the audience gets the sense of just how horrifyingly disturbing this world truly is. For example, it becomes apparent that individuals choose their life partners based entirely on trivial personal characteristics. A woman with a limp is suggested as a suitable partner for a man with a limp, but he rejects the pairing when he learns she only has a sprained ankle. Most of the characters don’t even have names, but are simple called “nosebleed woman” or “bald man”. That someone would submit to animal transformation rather than accept a partner without a specific trait is considered normal and perfectly logical by everyone.
And somehow things manage to keep getting progressively weirder.
While on the face of it, The Lobster appears to be a commentary on society’s obsession with couples and disdain of singles, it ends up posing far more questions than it answers. While the phrase “it makes you think” is tiresomely overused, this movie does, indeed, do that, and the more you try to think, the more you realize just how much your head has been messed with. In an era of formulaic blockbusters, it is refreshing to find a film that is truly unique and original.
The one criticism is that it goes on just a bit too long. It would have done well to shave 10-15 minutes off its current nearly 2 hour runtime. But this is a minor complaint.
Overall rating: 8/10