The Lobster

You’re a complete idiot, picking one of the few animals that can talk when you have speech impediment. You’ll lisp, even as an animal.

Year Released : 2015YBsoy8f
Director : Yorgos Lanthimos
Cast : Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, John C Reilly, Olivia Colman and Angeliki Papoulia

Sometimes you’ve never heard of a film and nothing about it looks interesting, right from the cast or the poster, but then you read the plot and all of a sudden you’re desperate to watch it. That was the case when I went to watch “The Lobster” just before Christmas (I’m doing a rare write up of this section after the film) as the concept seemed exceptionally original.

It looked very odd and like the sort of film that I would love, but there was something beforehand that I just felt was wrong about the film and ultimately this becomes the first review of 2016 in which I won’t be giving an approval stamp to, that despite it’s high rating of 7.5/10 on IMDB.

In many ways, likening it to football (actual football, not what the Americans claim as football), it’s a film of two halves.

Plot

David (Farrell) has recently been admitted to an isolated hotel full of single people. Under the new laws, anyone who isn’t in a relationship must find love within 45 days of being admitted, and if they are not in a relationship when their 45 days is up then they are turned into an animal of their choosing. David’s choice is a lobster as it has a long life, is always fertile and he likes swimming. He soon befriends a limping man (Whishaw) and a man with a severe lisp (Reilly).

All of David’s initial attempts to partner with a woman are unsuccessful and with just a few days left, he takes the desperate move to go for a woman who everyone hates (Papouloia) due her morbid outlook on life. David successfully couples with her with just days to go, but to test his commitment she purposefully kills his dog by kicking it viciously in the stomach (the dog had been David’s brother but had unsuccessfully failed to find a partner in the hotel). David can’t hide his emotions and the woman tries to drag him to the hotel’s owner (Colman) to tell her of David’s deceit, something which carries a punishment of being turned into an animal not of his choosing. He successfully subdues her on the way and takes his revenge by kicking her several times. He forces her into the transformation room

David runs away and ends up being taken in by a group of loners, a group where love is forbidden, but he soon starts falling for a short sighted woman (Weisz).

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So why no approval sticker?

The reason for this is simply because it’s effectively a film of two halves, the bit in the hotel and then after he escapes. The section of the film where he is in the hotel is exceptionally well written, clever, unforgiving and genuinely interesting, but the second half of the film is so boring and bland that I just lost all interest in it whatsoever.

Let’s start with the overall premise of the film and what gets people in the hotel in the first place, being single. The film is unclear in a lot of aspects of this law that causes anyone who is single to be forced into a hotel and turned into an animal if they are unsuccessful in finding love. Whilst it is interesting to see numerous animals in a wooded area that wouldn’t normally be in that environment, giving you an idea into what people choose (such as a camel), the law is ultimately flawed in that it doesn’t make the rules of the law clear.

For example, at what age can you be single and not be forced into the hotel? The youngest person in the hotel appears to be in their mid-20s (she is also the only character that you see gets transformed into an animal, although you only see the after effect rather than the transformation), so at what age are people free until? It’s just unclear and there’s something a bit uninteresting watching a bunch of middle aged people awkwardly flirting with each other.

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The law is ridiculously harsh. For example, the limping man’s wife has died just a few days prior and yet he’s quickly launched into this hotel for being single. There’s no grieving period and no chance for him to be fine again, it’s just there.

Whilst I am prepared to cut films a lot of slack when it comes to reality bending, they have to at least make sense on some level and in this sense, I found myself getting less and less interested as the film went on as it was just unclear as to why people are forced into the hotel. I know that’s probably part of the idea, leaving people in a bit of limbo when it comes to this sort of thing, but some sort of context would be nice.

As I say, the time in the hotel is actually relatively decent. You see the lengths that some people will go to as the depression sets in and the desperate lengths people will go to (for example, the lisping man threatens to shoot to David after he’s escaped to give himself another day of trying to find someone). Even sexually relieving yourself is forbidden, with the lisping man having his hand forced into a toaster by the hotel management for masturbating, with the scene of burning his fingers being my particular favourite in the overall run time of the film.

The dialogue in this half of the film is witty and well written, which is much more than I can say for the second half of the film, which I will move onto now.

When David does eventually get out of the hotel and is in the wooded area, the tone of the film, it’s feel and general level of interest serious wains, it, for a lack of a better word, becomes boring. There are long segments in this section which make even less sense that the law mentioned above, and the character of the Loner Leader (none of the characters other than David are named by the way) is played in such a lifeless way by Lea Seydoux that it completely disengages you from her as a mildly antagonistic character.

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Summary

The Lobster was a missed opportunity in many ways. Whilst this could have been brilliant, the second half of the film completely kills the momentum and interest level that has been gained in the first half. It’s reminds me in many ways of Goal of the Dead in that sense, but in that film they had the excuse of different writers for the different halves of the film. The Lobster has no such excuse.

I’m not saying that The Lobster is an awful film by any stretch. There are bits that I genuinely enjoyed, such as the scene with the toaster, but after David escapes the hotel that film just doesn’t feel as interesting.

I wouldn’t say don’t waste your time because the first half is worth watching, but after he escapes you might as well turn off.

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