We live in a world now where 90% of our interactions come online, more and more people are finding it hard to connect with human beings on a deeper level, and people stay single much longer. And yet the societal norm is still that everybody be happy and in a relationship and if you’re not paired off, you’re a weirdo. As a result, people cling to whatever tiny interest or quirk they might share with someone and build a whole relationship off of that. The new absurdist romantic comedy The Lobster skewers these societal expectations in one of the most truthful movies to come out in a while.
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, who gave the world the equally out-there Dogtooth in 2009, The Lobster takes the ridiculousness of dating in the 2010s as an adult and makes finding love not only a desire but a necessity, unless you want to be turned into an animal. Everybody in the movie is defined by a single attribute and that’s the thing that puts people together or drives them apart. It also gets to the heart of finding love despite not having anything in common and whether or not you need that connective tissue. But it does it in a horribly violent and graphic way.
Colin Farrell stars as David, a man whose wife recently left him for another man. He is then taken off to a coed resort where he has a certain number of days to find a partner or be turned into an animal of his choosing–he chose a lobster as the trailer tells you, for a number of thoughtful reasons. His brother is his only companion, a recent visitor to the resort who was turned into a sheepdog. In the resort, he meets John C. Reilly as a man with a lisp and Ben Whishaw as a man with a limp (their two defining features) and they each have their own way of dealing with the loneliness. Masturbation is strictly prohibited under penalty of hand-in-a-toaster. People go to weird lengths to find someone, with Whishaw even resorting to bashing his nose in to make it bleed just to have something in common with a cute girl who has constant nosebleeds.
Outside the resort in the woods are the Loners, a group of people led by Lea Seydoux’s character who are a community but live alone, strictly forbidden from getting together. They have to find their own food and even dig their own graves. Each day, the people in the resort get their rifles and tranquilizer darts and travel into the woods to hunt down loners. For each loner caught, another day is added to the time you can stay at the resort prior to animal transformation. A woman described as totally heartless has more than anyone and David chooses her as his paramour, even though he’d be much better suited to a pretty loner (Rachel Weisz) who is shortsighted just like he is.
The Lobster is an incredibly weird movie, but its heart is totally on its sleeve and in the right place. There’s nothing like Absurdism to completely skewer the preposterousness of modern life. All of the characters speak very verbosely, but completely in monotone making them seem alien or robotic. Life has become perfunctory and interactions doubly so. We also get to see people who try to make connections but can’t and how sad and painful that is. The movie doesn’t discriminate between gender or sexuality or size or race or whether someone’s pretty or not; everybody has trouble finding someone and they’re totally useless at trying to do it alone.
It’s not an easy movie to watch; it’s very violent, it’s often uncomfortable, and it doesn’t paint romance in the 21st Century in a very good light, but The Lobster isn’t sugar coating anything. Relationships are hard, being alone is tough, and society doesn’t really help. But when all’s said and done, it’s probably better than being a dog.