Cannes Film Festival: The Lobster

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Jessica Barden, Olivia Colman, Ashley Jensen, Ariane Labed, Angeliki Papoulia, John C. Reilly, Léa Seydoux and Ben Whishaw

by Joanna Orland

The Lobster is a most cynical commentary on both romance and single life in modern society.  No film can make you feel as brilliantly awful as this film does.

The premise is a strange one – single people are imprisoned in a hotel and are obliged to find a mate in 45 days.  If they fail to do so, they are transformed into an animal and released into the wild.  You only have four choices in the world of The Lobster – become an animal, become part of a couple, commit suicide, or run away into the woods to live with The Loners who are a feral society that forbids love.  While this may sound slightly confusing and unbelievable, director Yorgos Lanthimos has built the world of The Lobster meticulously and interestingly that it is at once easy to embrace such an odd premise filled with just as odd characters, including Colin Farrell as the desperate David.

David, who weighs about 40lbs more than Colin Farrell, has recently become single.  He checks into the hotel which is run by Hotel Manager, played brilliantly deadpan by Olivia Colman.  He has mere days to find his partner, otherwise he must endure his fate which is to become an animal of his choosing – a lobster.  His brother, now a dog, is his companion.  He befriends Limping Man played earnestly by Ben Whishaw, and Lisping Man played empathetically by John C. Reilly.  The female partners available to these men include Biscuit Woman (Ashley Jensen), Nosebleed Woman (Jessica Barden) and Heartless Woman (Angeliki Papoulia).  Clearly a fine selection.

As much as the characters are not named but rather described, everything in The Lobster is literal and simplified.  This is not due to a simple concept by director Lanthimos, but rather due to the director’s cynical outlook on humanity’s simple desires and strong desperation.  Through the cynicism, the film is filled with humour of the darkest sort.  Humour comes through the absurdity of the world built by Lanthimos as well as through the ease of which his characters unquestionably accept it.  The disregard society has for a singleton’s life is comedically emphasized through dramatizations and the absurd pressures of finding a mate before resigning to a lower form of life as an animal.  The film then flips this concept on its head by treating the idea of couplehood in an equally cynical and darkly humourous way.

Inevitably, David makes his way into the woods to encounter The Loners, which is foreshadowed early on in his stay at the hotel.  At this point in the film, the focus now turns to the concept of couplehood, with bold sweeping commentary made on how desperate people are for love in modern society – willing to swiftly accept the superficial as substantial.  The Loners are a very strict group with an even stricter leader played by Léa Seydoux.  Loner Leader enforces the strict no love policy with a ban on flirtation, and even simple tasks of helping each other in daily life.  To be a Loner, you must dig your own grave, as no one will do it for you.

The Lobster is currently my favourite of the In Competition strand at the 68th Cannes Film Festival.  It is clever, cynical, humourous, brash and bold on so many levels – it will make you feel horrible for being single, and even worse for ever having fallen in love.  Making me feel awful never felt so good.


Our interviews, photos & videos from The Lobster red carpet at the 59th BFI London Film Festival.



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