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Catching Up on 2016: Josh Reviews The Lobster

In Yorgos Lanthimos’ film The Lobster, Colin Farrell stars as David.  Upon discovering that his wife has left him for another man, David checks into a hotel where single people have 45 days to find a life partner, or else they will be transformed into an animal of their own choosing.  David makes friends with two of the other single men there, Robert (John C. Reilly) and John (Ben Wishaw).  Eventually, Ben runs away from the hotel and begins living with the “loners” who live in the woods nearby.  Though the loners forbid any sort of romantic connection between two people, David finds he has feelings for a woman (Rachel Weisz) he meets there.

The Lobster.cropped

The Lobster is an incredibly bizarre film, one that creates a fascinating alternate reality to our own.  Though much of the world of The Lobster looks and sounds just like our own, we are presented with two fanatically extreme versions of society: one in which coupling is so important that failure to do so results in the end of one’s human life, and another in which coupling is absolutely forbidden.  The film is a compelling commentary on societal pressure to find romance and a life-partner.  How critically important to one’s life and happiness is finding a romantic partner?  Why do we, as a society, put so many rules on people’s love lives, on what is expected and what is permitted?  The Lobster is a rich satire that prompts deep questions.

Colin Farrell is terrific in the lead role, marvelously underplaying the character of David.  Mr. Farrell is beautifully naturalistic and honest in his performance.  While the world of The Lobster can feel outlandish at times, Mr. Farrell provides a critical anchoring to the proceedings with his emotional honesty, and his depiction of a man at a crossroads, struggling to figure out who he is and what he wants and whether he feels he has any self-worth.  The film works as well as it does 100% because of Mr. Farrell’s strong performance.  Mr. Farrell is a handsome man who usually exhibits a ferocious, kinetic energy in his performances.  But here, beneath a paunch and glasses and a ridiculous moustache, it’s as if he has drained every ounce of life and energy out of himself in order to bring the sad-sack David to life.  It’s quite spectacular.

John C. Reilly is always great, and he’s a ray of light in this mostly downbeat film.  His character, Robert, is lonely and unhappy, but Mr. Reilly brings a little spark to every one of his line readings that brings a sense of fun and play into what is, when you think about it, a very broken character.  Ben Wishaw (Cloud Atlas and recently the new Q in Daniel Craig’s Bond movies) is also great, playing a character who is quiet and devious whereas Mr. Reilly’s Robert is open and outgoing.  My favorite scenes in the film were the ones with Mr. Farrell, Mr. Reilly, and Mr. Wishaw together.

Lea Seydoux (having a Spectre reunion with Ben Wishaw) is great as the fascistic ruler of the loners, while Olivia Colman (The Night Manager) is equally enjoyable as the equally-strict hotel manager.

I was quite enjoying the film, weird though it was, right up until the abrupt ending.  The film ends on what I found to be a horrific and depressing note.  I suppose this represents Mr. Lanthimos’ condemnation of the two extreme viewpoints depicted in his film.  But after growing to like David, and also Rachel Weisz’s character, I was put off by the film’s sharp turn into extreme darkness at the end.

I’d been hearing a lot of great things about The Lobster for a year, and I’m glad to have finally seen this unique film, even if I didn’t find myself as head-over-heels in love with it as so many others seem to have.

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