Love & The Lobster
Recently-singled Colin Farrell has been conscripted for a stay at The Hotel. Management gives him - as they do everyone else - 45 days to find a new mate. Should he fail, The Hotel will turn him into an animal of his choice.
There’s a quiet sense of futility throughout the runtime of The Lobster. No one seems to mind the dystopian world in which they live, nor really care about the twisted fate they all inevitably face. While the world smacks of 1984, there isn’t a character in the film who transcends the rules or tries to break them in any meaningful way. There’s no relief from the relentless pressure to find a mate and, while it all feels excessive, it also makes perfect sense in a film so dedicated to pointing out the absurdities of human dating.
Throwing you headlong into this warped reality show premise, writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth) makes sure everything is dripping in pitch black satire. Maybe the best example is The Hunt, where Farrell and his new friends are forced to hunt Loners outside Hotel grounds. The entire scene is shot in glorious slow motion, like a David Attenborough documentary, with twisted, snarling faces on one side and wide-eyed terror on the other. The dating game says, "tranquillise or be tranquillised" and everyone’s an animal.
Nothing is as exemplary of the mood of the film as the scene in which John C. Reilly profusely apologises for masturbating while The Hotel manager burns his sinful digits in an operating toaster.
No, scratch that.
There's also a scene where Farrell’s character tries to pick up a woman while they watch an acquaintance of his moan in pain from a botched suicide attempt. Oh, and the woman he hits on only notices him after he makes no effort to intervene as she pretends to choke to death on an olive. It’s over the top and absurd but, let’s face it, it's also totally relatable. We all know someone who’s suspended their morals in the search for a new partner. We’ve all been there ourselves.
Considering the sheer volume of these kinds of jokes, it’s baffling to admit that The Lobster eventually feels earnest, thanks mainly to the late addition of an on-point Rachel Weisz. You really end up rooting for Farrell’s character and his fucked up adventures in love, if only to stick it to his oppressors and therefore, your own romantic shortcomings.
With all of this frivolity in the foreground, you still can’t escape the presence of the film’s oppressive institution. Whether it be the managers of The Hotel, the loner police of The City or the vindictive Lea Seydoux in The Woods - Farrell can’t truly escape or change the rules that govern all human relationships. Their presence suffocates the joy and life out of the world Lanthimos builds and playing by their rules only leads to a cynical pairing devoid of emotion. It’s through this fine detail that you can easily draw cathartic parallels to your own miserable love life. It’s not your fault and, ironically enough, you’re not alone in your struggle in feeling alone.
In that sense, you can bet your arse Lanthimos doesn’t shy away from making an assessment of society’s treatment of love. Judging by the final moments in the film, Lanthimos seems to suggest that it isn’t fair to perpetuate the inane tropes around relationships and love. He makes a direct comparison to the dictum of ‘love is blind’. With all of the torturous rituals others are going through right now in a desperate effort to find love, Lanthimos says it’s a dick move to spout off platitudes from the safe and snug distance of your own cushy relationship. If you do run your mouth off, Lanthimos suggests putting your preaching into practice, literally.
Love is always going to be fucking absurd.