Yorgos Lanthimos never fails at creating a sense of optimistic cynicism coupled with satire in dystopian universes like in his 2010 film Dogtooth about a family raised in a dystopian universe with strict laws and Alps (2012), where actors impersonate deceased people in order to help their clients grieve. Lanthimos knows how to blend enticing with weird.
Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz and Lea Seydoux, The Lobster (2015) doubles as Lanthinos’ first English film and his masterpiece. The movie manages to represent art film qualities in a dark world punishing romantic solidarity. It continues its role unbeknownst to the world of mainstream films; perhaps because of its quirky yet dark humorous content—but wait! Don’t let that turn you away. There is much to be taken away from this, seriously amazing, film.
It is not uncommon for me to shy away from comedies, especially those that incorporate romance into the genre—mainly because of the crappy blatant sexist humor and lack of character arc. Although classified as a rom-com, The Lobster dives into the human psyche of fearing loneliness and yearning to be loved. Aside from the satirical nature of the writing, the moral of the movie teaches about the unnecessary restrictions on human feeling. In a time when being single is outlawed, the films protagonist, David (Farrell), is escorted to a hotel after his wife leaves him for another man. He is told by the hotel manager (Olivia Colman) he has 45 days to find love or he will be turned into an animal of his choice. He chooses a lobster because of their love for the sea and life spans—hence the title of the film.
The institution of marriage (gay or straight) is so informed that citizens will either be exiled or turned into an animal. There is an anxiety and pressure of not dying alone. Characters who are desperate end up doing unspeakable actions, like equating “compatibility” with “shares similar traits.” David befriends two men (Ben Wishaw and John C. Reilly) who vigorously attempt to find their partners using the aforementioned logic. For example, Wishaws’s character (who isn’t given a name), is attracted to a woman who gets frequent nosebleeds, so he consistently bangs his head against walls to make his nose bleed. Reilly’s character, who has a lisp, searches for someone with a speech impediment. David fakes being heartless and devoid of feeling in attempts at pairing himself with a woman who has those qualities. Theres are obvious recipes for disaster but these characters convince themselves that faking love will work; kind of like a dystopian tale of fake-it-till-you-make-it.
In a dramatic chain of events, David manages to escape the hotel and joins a group of nomads rebelling against their societies strict marital laws. The group does not allow romantic relationships, a juxtaposing theme. What happens when human emotion is not constrained, rather is let out to play on its own? The composition of the loners and their rules if interesting in itself. The beautiful irony in The Lobster is that when David finally falls in love, it is through an institution that prohibits romantic relationships.
The Lobster challenges social institutions forcing their ideologies to the people. It questions love and identity. Although it’s less heart-warming than most rom-com’s, if you like weird indie-dystopian satires, The Lobster is what you’re looking for.