Fantastic Fest: 'The Lobster' uses outlandish premise to convey value of relationships

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Picturehouse Entertainment

From  the opening scene of “The Lobster," it becomes clear that everything about Yorgos Lanthimos’ film is completely absurd, and that’s a great thing. It’s a film  anything can happen, and audiences can truly expect the unexpected.

Set in a twisted world where companionship is a non-negotiable pillar of society, the film uses a brilliant mix of dark comedy and subdued performances to deliver an insightful commentary on how relationships can be viewed as an invaluable commodity.

David (Colin Farrell), an architect, has just been through a divorce. He lives in The City, which requires that every citizen be in a monogamous relationship at all times. If people become single, they is whisked away to The Hotel, where they are given 45 days to find a companion. If they fail, they’ll be turned into an animal and shipped off into The Woods. With time ticking away, David must attempt to find his soul mate or else lose his humanity.

The movie’s absurdist nature makes for big, uncomfortable laughs. Lanthimos draws inspiration from the work of Terry Gilliam and Wes Anderson, creating a convincing universe where uncommon behavior is considered the norm, no matter how strange. One minute David’s dancing with strangers during a speed-dating session — the next,  he’s forced to hunt for “Loners” in the forest using a crossbow armed with tranquilizers.

Every line in the film, including the story’s narration, is said in a slow, monotonous voice. This slow pacing works for the theme, but can be a bit grading as the story closes in on the finish line. Farrell still packs in plenty of emotion as a man trying to survive in an obtuse world. Rachel Weisz excellently portrays a potential match for David who’s conflicted about whether she wants to remain a “Loner” her whole life.

“The Lobster’s” best aspect is the bizarre world it creates, where relationships truly mean everything. Here, being alone is the ultimate cultural taboo. The strict, totalitarian structure of the Hotel is both amusing and horrifying as the leaders do their best to make sure no behavior resembling independence, such as self-pleasure, is tolerated. What's more, Lanthimos shows the flip side of this reality by introducing a group of rebels who believe in independence and are ironically just as oppressive.

Lanthimos tackles heavy themes, the biggest of which is the objectification of “the relationship status.” He uses the majority of the runtime to offer a lecture on how being in a relationship is commonly seen as a prized possession that defines what it means to be human. Not having a loved one, the film shows, can often be seen as a huge failing. But the movie also criti the view that complete independence is the way to go.

While continuously intriguing, “The Lobster” could use some trimming during the overstuffed third act. By this point, the elements that were fun in the first two acts — the deadpan delivery and the bizarre imagery — begin to overstay their welcome. Some moments tend to feel a bit slow and unneeded, which produces frustrating spots on an otherwise immaculate story.

Overall, “The Lobster” delivers a stellar tale about viewing love as an achievement rather than a feeling. The film’s absurdity is never too unbelievable, and it uses its silly nature to its advantage. Coupled with unorthodox acting and a strange, uncomfortable world, “The Lobster” matches new classics, such as “Her,” by retelling the traditional love story in an inventive new fashion.

“The Lobster”

  • Run time: 118 minutes
  • Rating: 9/10 Hotels