You have 45 days to find love. If you don’t, you will be changed into the animal of your choice. And you will live out the rest of your days as that animal.
I don’t know about you, but that one sentence is why I went to see The Lobster. And I love Colin Farrell. It was a two-fer to be honest.
Farrell stars as David. David’s wife has died. He hasn’t found a new love yet. He is whisked off to a hotel with other single people in an effort to find a new partner. Or be turned into an animal. Kind of like David’s brother, who is now David’s dog. On his first day, David choose the lobster as the animal he would like to be changed into if he doesn’t find love. Because they “live for a hundred years, and are actively fertile the whole time.” He is informed that this is a great choice.
The movie follows his efforts to find a mate in the hotel. There’s the girl who constantly gets nose bleeds. There’s the woman who eats too many biscuits. And there’s the woman he tries to choose, the heartless bitch who he proves his love to by not saving her when she pretends to choke on an olive.
Calling this film quirky does it a disservice. But it does have an incredible weirdness you need to get over if you’re going to enjoy yourself. It’s not whimsical like Wes Anderson’s version of quirky, but it’s not super serious, like the Coen brother’s version. The movie is a deep, long look at love. Although it may be hard to crack the admittedly deep surface, I found myself looking at every scene and piece of dialogue within the context of love. Viewed in this way, The Lobster is endlessly engaging. I think every person who sees it will take something different from it. Film students will watch it forever, trying to figure out what the director is really saying.
It took me a while to understand what was actually different about this movie compared to others. And it’s the dialogue. At first, I assumed the awkward stiltedness was just the result of people forced into an awkward situation, like high schoolers trying to make small talk at a dance. But as David escapes the hotel and meets the Loners who live freely, but lovelessly, in the woods, I realized that everyone talks this way. It’s extremely blunt, almost like if every character was slightly on the spectrum.
It sounds like a criticism. But it’s not. It forced me to really listen to the dialogue. Noting the specific word choices. Helping me to understand that we don’t have the language to adequately describe love. The Lobster tries desperately to tell us that love cannot be forced. That living alone is okay. That finding a single trait in common with someone is not the basis for a relationship. That you need to be yourself in order to truly love. And that real love is a sacrifice.
The Lobster is funny. In a morbid way. Like when David uses a woman’s attempted suicide as an opportunity to hit on the heartless woman. Or one of his friends purposefully forcing nose bleeds on himself to make the nosebleed girl attracted to him. “What’s worse? Being turned into an animal and getting eaten by a bigger animal, or getting a nose bleed every once in a while?”
But The Lobster is extremely inaccessible to anyone not ready for it’s strange brand of filmmaking. Even the first shot, an extended sequence where a woman shoots a donkey, is very off putting until you get to look back on it. Two people actually walked out of the theater. I don’t blame them.
But Colin Farrell is terrific, the shots are beautiful, and I love seeing John C. Reilly in anything. The world doesn’t seem fully developed much of the time (why does no one question the system?!?) and the stilted dialogue takes some getting used to. But there’s a lot here for those brave enough to dig their claws into it.
2 1/2 out of 4 stars.
P.S. Yes, the dog dies. I think all movies should have that spoiler warning.