Being single is illegal in the dystopia of Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster. Singles go to spas where they have 45 days to find a mate. Those who do not find a mate are turned into an animal of their choice. Colin Farrell plays a man, who, because his wife just left him, must go to such a spa. There he befriends two other bachelors, a masturbator with a lisp (John C. Reilly) and a man with a limp (Ben Whishaw), who are also actively seeking a mate, choosing between a swimmer with a propensity for nose-bleeds, her best friend with the good hair, a desperate woman with a love of biscuits, and a sociopath who excels at hunting stray singles with a tranquilizer gun. Yes, stray singles are hunted. For, if one opts out of the system, he becomes an outcast, a stray single on the run, left to fend for himself in the forest, outside society. The outcasts who band together have their own rules: no flirting, solo dancing only (to electronic music), digging one’s own grave. Bleak, bleak indeed. The Lobster’s absurd universe is rich and pitch black funny, and it would be a shame to give away more. What we can say is that, about midway, the tone shifts toward the tender, while the brisk-for-an-art-house-film pace remains the same. With its emphasis on people finding partners with similar defects, The Lobster transgressively skewers our society’s obsession with compatibility. The performances are muted and lobotomized to complement the film’s dry wit and Lanthimos’s austere vision.

In English & French, but mostly English.

By Alec Julian & Carrie White


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