Writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, Alps) makes a courageous grab for Hollywood talent with his latest film, though thankfully avoids the same pitfalls that have beleaguered so many foreign filmmakers (namely dropping their own ideas and becomnig a hack for hire). The Lobster is a film thoroughly without compromise or any indication that Lanthimos is “selling out” by working with a world-famous cast including Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz and John C. Reilly.
Taking place in an enigmatic dystopia where singletons are taken to a hotel and given 45 days to find a partner or be turned into an animal of their choosing, we primarily follow David (Farrell), a sad sack divorcee looking to find a way out of his peculiar predicament before it’s too late and he’s transformed into, you guessed it, a lobster.
Lanthimos has come up with a deliciously demented premise for his first toe-dip into Hollywood, and though inherently dark, it’s glazed with lashings of hysterical humour, providing some welcome, much-needed levity. Only enhancing the amusement is the communal poker-face played by the entire cast (also including Olivia Colman, Michael Smiley, Ben Whishaw and Lea Seydoux), though the knock-on effect is that the solmen, often intentionally robotic line readings only make the sadder moments even more sad.
Despite the hilarious one-liners, the dread-soaked atmosphere is unmistakable; with hotel hallway shots and sharp string arrangements recalling The Shining, creating an oppressive mood as time begins to run out for David and others. Lanthimos’ decision to bleed things out slowly only makes things more intriguing and unsettling all at once, with plenty left ambiguous even as the credits roll.
With some impressive narrative gear-shifting to help sustain its 118-mintue run-time and a wealth of smart ideas to help build its own minimalist world, The Lobster is a smart, devilishly funny and undeniably disturbing romantic drama-thriller which makes the most of an extremely game cast. Its patient and chest-thumpingly oddball approach won’t be for everyone, but there’s nothing out there like it, and it’s without question one of 2015’s most inventive and brazen efforts. More of this, please.