****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!!!
MY RATING : 4.5 Stars out of 5.
RECOMMENDATION : SEE IT IN THE THEATRE
THE ABSURD - The conflict between (1) the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and (2) the human inability to find any.
The Lobster, directed and co-written by Yorgos Lanthimos, is an absurdist, existential drama* set in a near-future dysotpia. In this dystopian future, single people (those without a spouse) are sent to a hotel resort where they have 45 days to find a suitable partner or they will be turned into an animal of their choice. The film stars Colin Farrell, Rachel Weiss, Jessica Barden, Olivia Colman, Lea Seydoux, Ben Winshaw and John C. Reilly.
The Lobster was a tremendous surprise to me, as it is a unique and original little gem of a film released during the usual summer tsunami of big, blockbuster garbage. The directing, writing and acting are impeccable. The film thrives because it has the cinematic courage to never comment on itself or revel in its own quirkiness, instead playing it as a straight, remarkably insightful and moving drama.
At it's heart The Lobster is not a love story, but rather a story about love. It is a story about emotional autism, isolation, totalitarianism, the desperation of desperation and the idea of misery loving company. It is a story about the cruel world of relationships, lisps, limps, nosebleeds, the near-sighted and those black of heart. In short, it is a brilliant and ingenious film that shows the shadow lurking deep in our hearts, and just below the surface of our psyches.
"I can't go on, I'll go on." - Samuel Beckett
Colin Farrell easily gives the best performance of his career as "David". Farrell disappears into the "everyman" role, even showing off an impressive, and all too familiar, regular guy gut. Farrell's physical transformation is matched by his emotional detachment in the role, and his droll, deadpan delivery. Farrell is an actor who has struggled with the demands of the industry and its push for stardom, and creatively he has never consistently lived up to his obvious ability. In The Lobster, Farrell finally brings all of his formidable talents to bear in a role I never would have guessed he could have managed. It is a credit to his integrity and commitment that Farrell took and embraced this role with such mastery.
The supporting cast is superb as well, with Rachel Weiss giving her best and most captivating performance in years. John C. Reilly does his usual solid work, as does Ben Winshaw as the "limping man". The standout supporting performance though belongs to Lea Seydoux, who plays a steely and determined revolutionary. Seydoux gives a powerfully magnetic performance that is blistering. Jessica Barden and Olivia Colman also make the most of their small roles by creating vivid and complex characters with very little screen time.
"Happiness and the absurd are two sons of the same earth. They are inseparable." - Albert Camus
As much as I loved The Lobster, I readily acknowledge that it may be an acquired taste, as my good friend Chaz J. Chazzington saw the film and hated it beyond words, which is striking as he generally likes every piece of crap movie he goes to see. In fact, he literally hated The Lobster beyond words as he couldn't tell me exactly why he hated it, just that he did. I think, but do not know, that his dislike of the film may have to do with his expectations heading into it. The Lobster is billed as a "comedy", and after years of cultural conditioning, when people hear something is a comedy, they immediately project onto the film a bunch of softer and lighter qualities. For instance, when some people hear "comedy" they may instantly think of a Kevin Hart, Will Ferrell or Woody Allen type of movie. The Lobster is not at all that type of film. In fact, I wouldn't even call it a comedy at all, which is why I described it as a drama in my opening paragraph. In my opinion, in order to fully enjoy The Lobster, one should look upon it as a drama that at times becomes funny.
"We can regard our life as a uselessly disturbing episode in the blissful repose of nothingness." - Arthur Schopenhauer
I also think my Lobster hating friend may have been put off by the film because it is very dark in theme and tone. Not everyone is comfortable with their shadow, and material that delves into the darker aspects of human nature can trigger deep feelings of discomfort in some folks. Once again, this can come from cultural conditioning, as we are often taught that darker material is "bad", and so we make moral judgements on a film's themes or subject matter and are unable to judge the film on its merits. Integrating our shadow, and the shadow of the wider culture, is vital to psychological evolution and health, and ignoring or shunning the shadow is not only a fools errand, but is physically, mentally and emotionally harmful. When the shadow is presented in a relatively innocuous form, a film, it can then be ingested, digested, absorbed and integrated. Acknowledging the shadow in our own or in the collective psyche through something as ingenious as The Lobster, is a way to pay homage and respect to mankind's darker nature and bring it to consciousness, and thus release some of its power, without having to pay a very heavy price for it, only the cost of admission.
With all that said, The Lobster may be too dark or artistically inclined to be your cup of tea. It was right up my alley though, in fact, so much so, that I think it is one of the best films of the year thus far. I was captivated, entertained and intrigued for the entire two hours. I thoroughly loved the film and wholly encourage you to spend your hard earned money and go see it in the theatre, if for no other reason than to encourage studios to make more films like this one. If you do find yourself hating The Lobster, you can always leave the theatre and sneak into a showing of the movie Central Intelligence, it stars Kevin Hart and The Rock, two of the biggest stars in Hollywood today…if that isn't absurd, I don't know what is.