Yorgos Lanthimos’ English language debut is, without doubt, one of the most exciting films to be seen at Cannes this year.
Yorgos Lanthimos’ English language debut The Lobster is, without doubt, one of the most exciting films to be seen at Cannes this year. It starts off as an impressively intelligent and highly amusing piece in the first half, and although it is overlong and less effective in the second part, Lanthimos still manages to turn the corner and create an original piece of work that is set to divide audiences and critics alike.
As the film opens Lanthimos transfers us to a near future setting, where it is now a legal requirement to have a partner and be in a loving relationship. Those who aren’t are sent away to The Hotel, run by a sinisterly straight-talking manager (Olivia Coleman). Here guests are obliged to find a romantic partner within 45 days, or face the fate of being turned into an animal of their choice and released into the woods.
One of the guests arriving at said destination is David (Colin Farrell), a man paunchy and passive, but clearly broken hearted. He’s here because his wife has left him, so he decides on ‘his’ animal – a lobster, chosen for its lengthy lifespan and sustained fertility – and sets out to explore his new accommodation and what it has to offer. Lanthimos builds this bizarre world with a sardonically absurd wit as the hotel guests communicate through strange, stilted dialogue and ritualistically spend their days attempting to increase the length of their stay by hunting the woods for ‘Loners’, who adhere to their own code of independence, while the evenings are spent scouring for potential mates at the disco club.
The Lobster may be a ludicrous vision of our future, but it’s one founded upon very genuine observations about our ultimate desire for companionship, which Lanthimos skewers with sharp satire, until eventually he seems to become overwhelmed by the material. While the first half is full of flavour, the second is unappetisingly bland. A narrative twist that sees David flee into the woods and begin to fall in love with a rabbit-catching Loner (Rachel Weisz), comes too close to convention. The heavy-handed inclusion of a stunted narration told from the perspective of Weisz’s character somewhat suggests a lack confidence on Lanthimos’ part, as if he suddenly lost faith in the ideas he has so deftly and meticulously crafted.