Dogtooth director Yorgos Lanthimos returns with this darkly comic look at love, loneliness, and the horrors of dating. The Lobster opens with a shocking act that only really begins to make a semblance of sense as the film progresses. Somewhere in the countryside a crying woman drives out to a field and casually shoots a donkey in the head.
The Lobster is matter-of-fact about its weirdness. This deadpan approach grounds it in reality and makes it very funny. Lanthimos presents a world where single people are rounded up and herded into a bland-looking hotel overseen by its brutally offhand manager (Olivia Coleman) and given 45 days to find a suitable partner. If they fail they will be turned into the animal of their choice. David, played by an achingly vulnerable Colin Farrell, his good looks obscured by a paunch and a terrible moustache, fancies being a lobster. They live for a hundred years and are remarkably fertile. David arrives with a sheepdog, actually his older brother who was resident at the hotel a few years ago and couldn’t find a partner.
Days at the hotel are spent enduring social activities designed to bring couples together and attending workshops showing the inherent dangers of being alone. Among this group of misfits all identified by a single quirk that defines them are Biscuit Woman (Ashley Jensen), the Limping Man (Ben Wishaw), Lisping Man (John C. Reilly), Nosebleed Woman (Jessica Barden), and Heartless Woman (Angeliki Papoulia). There are daily hunting trips into the forest where the ‘loners’ live. Outlaws who have escaped from society and live by a strict code that forbids them from showing any human affection. They are led by Lea Seydoux who runs the group like a terrorist organisation and aims to show couples they are delusional about their relationships. Among them is a shy woman (Rachel Weisz) who shares David’s short-sightedness and also functions as the narrator of this strange story.
Lanthimos satirises both singleness and coupledom as being equally awful in their different ways. The first half of The Lobster is hilarious but once the action moves away from the hotel and into the forest the tone darkens. Lanthimos remains true to main theme of the film though, the insurmountable distance between people, played for laughs at first, but as it progresses with its devastating final shot The Lobster becomes the bleakest film of the year.