Magazine article Screen International

The Lobster': Review

Magazine article Screen International

The Lobster': Review

Article excerpt

Dir/scr: Yorgos Lanthimos. Ireland-UK-Fr-Greece-Neth. 2015. 118mins.

After Dogtooth and Alps, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos and his regular screenwriter, Efithimis Filippou continue to mine an absurdist seam of black comedy-drama in their first English-language outing. The budget boost and all-star cast has done nothing to dilute the trademark weirdness of the Hellenic duo, nor their penchant for stilted dialogue. What lifts The Lobster beyond such avant-garde theatrical mannerisms, most of the time, is the pathos that seeps through the film's unsentimental façade and its sheer belief in the dystopian world it delivers, a world in which single people are changed into an animal of their choice if they fail to find a partner within 45 days.

It may be based on universal human anxieties about love, relationships, compatibility and loneliness, but Filippou's script takes on a defiant, prickly life of its own, refusing to play as an easy allegory: this is no linear emotional journey dressed in dystopian clothes in the style of Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. This and the extreme stylisation of character and dialogue will produce diminishing returns for audiences that fail to engage with the film's deadpan sense of humour. As a result, The Lobster is unlikely to reach out to those who had no time for Alps or Dogtooth, though it may well spur a few Lanthimos newcomers to collect the set.

Three recognisable but other-worldly settings are deployed in the course of the film: a hotel, a forest, and a city. None are heaven or even quite hell, but it's the hotel that comes closest to purgatory: presided over by a stern, matronly manageress played by Olivia Colman, this is a last-chance saloon in the form of a posh but rather fusty country house resort on a rugged sea coast (actually Ireland's County Kerry). We first see Colin Farrell's sadsack character David - with his moustache, round glasses and bouffant hairdo, he's a bit of Ned Flanders, in appearance at least - checking in and leaving his personal possessions. He has a dog with him - Bob, the only other of the film's 'characters' to have a name that is ever spoken - who we later learn is his brother, a previous inmate of the hotel, who "didn't make it".

What 'making it' involves soon becomes clear. Singles are given 45 days to find a soul mate amongst the other solos on probation. …

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