Yorgos Lanthimos’ dystopia takes place in the near future in a world where people who don’t find mates are sentenced to 45 days in The Hotel. If they don’t find a partner by the end of those 45 days, they are turned into an animal of their choice. If they try to escape, the other prisoners can gain extra days by shooting them with tranquilizers (whereupon the escapee gets turned into an animal not of their choice). What perfect timing this film has in a year of animal transformations and animal empathy, what with the likes of Foster and Thwaites, the book Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are, and the traveling New Alchemists exhibition. The movie isn’t about turning into animals, though. The animal thing is really in the background and the science of it glossed over. The film is really a comment on what it’s like trying to find a mate in the 21st century. The characters speak in a deadpan, flat voice as though going through the motions. They desperately cling to anything they might have in common with a potential mate, as though going through an online dating check list. While the hotel encourages single people to fall in love, it seems that very few of them know what love is, and it isn’t until out in the wilderness where love is forbidden that the main character starts to happen upon it. Or does he? It’s difficult to assess. It will keep you debating with your film club for hours.
The film has a diverse cast, from big movie stars like Irish action-man Colin Ferrell (who packed on 40 pounds in 2 months for the role) and Rachel Weisz (who, although narrating, doesn’t show up until halfway through the film), to the talented Olivia Colman as hotel manager, to Extras‘ Ashley Jensen, to the compulsory appearance of John C. Reilly as the comic relief, and a personal favorite: the comedian Michael Smiley.
On top of that, the writing is phenomenal. It’s not just poignant but also consistently funny for the full two hours. It’s not a knee-slapper–it’s more subtle than that.
The Lobster will keep you thinking for a long time after you’ve seen it. It’s a high recommend from Anglonerd–as long as you’re not too squeamish! It’s definitely rated R but not for the reasons films are usually rated R. Most of the sex and violence is implied, but it’s implied viscerally.