The Lobster (2016)

brooke Finally, a movie where single people can feel at ease in the world, because at least here they won’t be forced to transform into animals if they stay single too long.
That conceit was all I knew about The Lobster going in, but there’s a lot more to it.

casey I really liked about 2/3 of this one. Its world has a quirky totalitarian vibe and its characters a deadpan awkwardness that I enjoyed. The last act didn’t hold up as well as I would have liked, but it’s a unique experience if nothing else.

brooke Most of my favorite moments take place in about the first half hour while our, um, hero, David (Colin Farrell), is checked into a resort hotel, which we learn is a place where single adults must go as soon as they lose their significant other. The resort guests all dress alike and are awoken every morning with a pleasant reminder of how many days they have left to find a partner or be turned into an animal of their choice. David’s only companion is his brother, now a dog, who failed to find a mate during his own previous stay.
Each day at the hotel is peppered with a variety of socializing activities and morality skits meant to teach the importance of having a partner. Occasionally everybody is sent out to hunt loners, people who’ve abandoned society to embrace being single and live in the forest, and tranquilizing a loner earns the guest an extra day at the hotel. It sounds incredibly ludicrous, but it’s also harsh: in one scene a character is punished for masturbation by having his hand forced into a toaster by hotel staff.

casey It sounds silly, but in the movie’s world it’s taken very seriously. I liked that it never bothers to explain why things are the way they are; instead you have to just roll with what you’re presented.

brooke I really liked it for the most part, especially scenes where former hotel guests, now animals that are obviously not native to the area (peacocks, camels, etc), wander around the background of shots. It reminds me of magical realism, except as the film goes deeper you realize that this world has no magic. The animal transformations are done by surgery. So much of it is upside down, but it’s also somehow plausible.

casey The whole production has a stylized charm that belies its fairly horrifying premise. In some ways it’s basically a comedy of manners featuring a bunch of extremely awkward people, and watching David and cohort navigate it is a lot of fun. At one point, for example, he attempts to form a relationship of convenience with a psychopathic female guest who’s managed to stave off transformation by being an effective hunter. Watching Farrell’s extremely understated but rising horror as she reveals her cold-bloodedness is just hilarious to watch.
But eventually David escapes and joins the loners, and while the later scenes have entertaining and even poignant moments, they began to drag for me. Ultimately, I’m not sure I can explain what the movie wants to say about relationships (if there’s a message at all), but when it does work, it works best as a low key screwball comedy.

brooke I agree that the last act isn’t as interesting, but I think it does offer a solid take on relationships by satirizing the societal role single people play, and how relationships are expected to start. Singleness so undesirable in this world that one character even attempts suicide because she’d rather die than be alone (or be an animal). I don’t think our society is much different. There are many who are treated as lesser people because they aren’t in committed relationships, and even people in committed relationships can be treated badly if they aren’t married.

casey Kinda makes me wonder if there’s some sort of sneaky religious commentary there…

brooke You may have a point. And as for how relationships start… there is a twisted  belief in the movie’s universe where every relationship has a “thing,” and you can only live with a mate who has that thing in common. So instead of singletons in the hotel agreeing to form couples just to remain human, they instead attempt to trick each other into believing they have something in common.

casey Like nosebleeds. Or psychopathy. I suppose that kind of thing probably happens in real life sometimes.

brooke All in all, the movie really is a dark one, especially in a few key scenes including the ending (which I will not divulge). Whether it’s actually saying anything about relationships probably depends a lot on the individual viewer, but I liked it.


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