The Lobster is a difficult movie to describe, but people who’ve seen Terry Gilliam‘s Brazil will have a general idea of the odd, stilted, cynical humor that makes the film unique in its class. The two films also share semi-sci-fi dystopian premises, but grand production design and a sense of adventure is nowhere to be found in The Lobster. The film is, perhaps, one of the most atypical examples of an indie rom-com that I’ve seen.
For those not familiar with the premise, The Lobster posits a world where people who are not in a romantic relationship are sent to a resort for something along the lines of rehabilitation. They are given 45 days to fall in love. If they fail to do so, they are turned into an animal. David (Colin Farrell) finds himself faced with this eventuality when his wife leaves him. He decides that if, worst comes to worst, he wants to be a lobster.
Lest you misunderstand the thrust of the film, The Lobster is not about furry transformations. It’s about the societal pressures that inform our love lives. It’s about how black and white outside views about relationships can be, and how that forces people into a skewed idea of what it means to love someone. The Lobster posits that people, in an effort to avoid becoming social pariahs, are so busy trying to define their relationships to outside parties that they fail to let their relationships unfold naturally. It’s some deep and depressing, but powerful, stuff– and the film pulls absolutely no punches in delivering its message.
The pacing feels oddly like that of a silent film. Moments of plot methodically plod along, with major reveals and terrifying moments being treated with the same editorial consideration as any other. It’s unlikely that there was a single exclamation point in the script. Lines are delivered without passion, as if the entire world is in constant “small-talk” mode. The whole thing sounds like it would be very boring, but for people who appreciate the joke, it works as a fantastic supplement to the overall metaphor. It also doesn’t hurt that every actor is giving the most nuanced, understated performance of their careers, delivering a surprising amount of range within the comatose confines of the film’s style.
The Lobster is a great film, but it’s definitely not going to be for everyone. Its message about love is beautiful and true, but is also very sad. The humor is dry to the point of being beyond British. There were moments that made me cringe so hard I had to turn away from the screen, but it never felt unnecessarily distasteful. If this sounds like your cup o’ tea, The Lobster is an absolute Must Watch. You should find a showing poste-haste at your nearest art house theater. For everyone else… maybe go re-watch a nice Meg Ryan film. You’ll feel better about life afterwards.