FlixChatter Review: The Lobster (2016)

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When I first heard of the premise of this film, I was already sold. Then I saw the trailer and I knew it’d be a bizarre film, but nothing could prepare me for how bizarre it turned out to be. The film is set in a dystopian near future where it’s unlawful to be single according to the laws of The City. So they’re taken to The Hotel where they have to find a romantic partner in 45 days or they’d be transformed into a beast of their choice and sent off into The Woods. You’d think that’d be easy but they have to find partners who share their unique characteristics.

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We first see David (Colin Farrell), a recently divorced architect and his dog who’s actually his brother who didn’t make the strict 45-day rule. Even the conversation with the hotel clerk is so off the wall you can’t help but laugh. Later on I realize that David is the only one who has a name in this film, the other characters are only credited with their unique traits, or you could also say affliction. Ben Whishaw is the Limping Man, John C. Reilly is the Lisping Man and so on. The fact that the film is played straight with the actors delivering the weirdest dialog in a deadpan way makes it so hilarious. I find myself chuckling at the sheer peculiarity of it all, but yet I know there’s more to this than just a series of outlandish scenarios.

The film is inherently a comedy but it’s not just frivolous silly movie, but it’s a clever and unique way to make you think of relationships. The first half of the film shows the strict rules and customs of The Hotel, managed by the always-entertaining Olivia Coleman. Then the second half takes place in The Woods where single-dom is celebrated and romantic/sexual activity is severely punished. I have to admit that the film seems to lose its footing a bit in the second half as it’s not as engrossing. It also grows more sinister and there’s a pretty violent scene that made me wince. In the Woods is where we meet its leader (Léa Seydoux) and the Short-Sighted Woman (Rachel Weisz) with whom David forms an attachment.

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Now, to say more would be a disservice to those who haven’t seen this. I think it’s best going into this not knowing much about it other than the basic premise. The way things unfold is so amusing and it’s open to your own interpretation. Greek writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos who co-wrote the script with Efthymis Filippou doesn’t spoon-feed you what he thinks about relationships. He doesn’t take sides on couple-dom vs single-ness, but he presents things in such a way that make you ponder about it for days. I really don’t know how I could survive in either scenario as there are dire consequences for your actions in both places. I appreciate Lanthimos’ style and this is certainly one of the most original concept I’ve seen. I’ve loved sci-fi concepts that’s more grounded in its presentation and the world the characters inhabit in this movie certainly looks plausible. The cinematography is beautiful with natural light and has a rather somber ambiance that stops just short of being morose. 

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The acting is brilliant all around. I’m most impressed with Farrell who’s perhaps at his most understated here. He looked so pudgy with a huge belly, a physical look I haven’t seen before as he’s not quite the shape-shifter like say, Christian Bale. His character is mostly passive and reflective, as he internalizes everything as he observes everything that’s going on around him. It’s quite interesting to watch his journey through the film, going from compliance to defiance to rebellion, right down to its ambiguous conclusion. Rachel Weisz is wonderful as always, she’s got many intriguing projects recently and she’s an actress I’ve grown to respect even more.

The finale proved to be rather frustrating and I think that’s what the filmmaker intended. It seems as if David was set out to do something really drastic, but the film ended before we know if went through with it. [SPOILER ALERT – highlight text to read the following sentence] As David brought a fork and knife, it seems to suggest he was going to blind himself so he’d share the same characteristic as the now blind Rachel Weisz, though I wonder why as he’s already escaped the strict confines of both The Hotel and The Woods.

Despite my frustration with some aspects of the film, I still have to give it top marks for originality and thought-provoking ideas. This is the first film from Lanthimos I’ve seen so far, but his previous films (Alps, Dogtooth) also have a peculiar concept. This is definitely unlike anything I’ve ever seen and I’m glad we have a filmmaker like him that pushes the envelope. I’d say if you don’t have an aversion to strange films, I highly recommend this one and you’d be glad you did.

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Have you seen ‘The Lobster’? I’m curious to hear what you think!

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53 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: The Lobster (2016)

  1. So glad you liked this Ruth! I loved the ending, I loved it all. So many parts have me smiling just thinking about them. And I love that they actually made a joke about a suicide attempt! Never seen a movie go there before

    1. Oh riiight, I forgot about that one! Oh boy the woman’s shrieks was quite disturbing though. Hey, did you read the part I marked as spoiler? So do you think Colin’s character did it or not?

        1. I think he did too, just because the film cut to black abruptly to suggest David’s now lack of vision. But I wonder why he had to do it as he’s already escaped the confines of The Hotel and The Woods. Plus it’d be extra challenging for the blind leading the blind!

          1. The first time he tried to find a mate he did the same thing, trying to seem horrid to the psycho bitch. He obviously had trouble connecting with people. You’re right though, it’d be hard for the blind to lead the blind!

            1. Yeah, that’s what baffled me more Jordan, the WHY he did it. I think the more I think about it, the way the screen abruptly went to black, it suggests that he did go through with it.

              1. Yeah I’m with you on the screen suddenly turning black at the end…. though many movies do end like that! 😉

                As to why, it certainly is an interesting question. How see it – with a Hotel dedicated for people to meet partners, and The Woods dedicated to the opposite, it would seem that the humans in the universe created struggle mightily to connect with one another, resorting to the most extreme way possible to connect and empathise.

                But that is just me blabbering about a film I saw last bloody year haha 😛

                1. It’s nuts that you saw this a year ago and it still hasn’t even opened yet in most states here :\

                  I think what you said here is spot on “…resorting to the most extreme way possible to connect and empathise” I think the idea here is about the extreme way to connect (or NOT connect), a hyperbolic and bizarre way to make a statement. It’s very thought provoking indeed!

                  1. I saw it at a festival in October, but it was released a month later anyway. Very strange that it came out here before the US -and- the UK. Knight of Cups came out here last year too. Weird.

                    And yes, The Lobster is definitely thought provoking! I’ll be buying myself a copy for sure

  2. Oh I could always relate to this movie. It surprisingly reflects society with some traditional beliefs – but in this movie, adjusted into a dystopian fomula.

    People in Indonesia could relate to this pretty well aside from its absurdity.

    Great write-up!

    1. I think the fact that the filmmaker is Greek, he must’ve taken some of his own country’s custom as the idea for this film. It’s a very intriguing concept about relationships that hasn’t been done before on film, at least not in this way. Ahah yeah, Indo’s strict societal custom at times reminds me of the way things are depicted here.

      1. Perhaps it is what happens in Greece nowadays or back then, but the idea is so real. At certain age, people should have partner. And if the relationship doesn’t work, then they give a child. Soooooo familiar with this.

        1. Yep it’s definitely something people can identify with, even here in the US there’s an unspoken expectations about ppl of a certain age to be married etc. and those who are married are expected to hv kids etc. the film just pushes the ideas in a bizarre way to make the point further.

  3. As someone that loves Dogtooth, I really want to see this as I recently watched a video from Yorgos Lanthimos and his wife Ariane Labed at the Criterion Collection closet as they were so giddy about the films they wanted to bring home.

    1. If you like his previous film, I’d say you’d enjoy this one Steven. I think Yorgos’ films are very peculiar, but he does have something to say, so not just weird for weirdness sake.

    1. Yep, VERY unconventional indeed in any genre. I love sci-fi that doesn’t feel science-fiction-y at all, it’s more in the concept than the execution.

  4. Hi Ruth. Sorry for my absence of late, I’ve only been dipping in and out of blogging.

    Love your take on this and for the most part, I agree. Such a unique look at relationships and it’s dystopian world is very intriguing but, ultimately, I was left disappointed. I found the latter half of the film to be quite laborious. That said, the concept was absolutely superb.

    1. Hello there Mark, always glad to see you stop by! Yeah I’ve been seeing your avatar in some of the blogs I visit 🙂

      I hear ya about the second half of the film. I mentioned that in my review that the filmmaker seemed to lose its footing in the latter half and the scenes in the Woods aren’t as engrossing to me. I’m not really disappointed as I had expected it to be very bizarre and indeed it was. I guess I was more frustrated by certain aspects of it, esp that ending as I don’t know what the character ultimately did and if he did what I think he did, I’m baffled as to why. In any case, we agree the concept is superb indeed!

      1. Yeah, just popping in and out on whatever post catches my eye. I’ve managed to get involved in the decades blogathon and have a further few posts to go out so I’m hoping to be around a wee bit more.

        Totally with you on the ending. I’m usually quite fond of ambiguous endings but I felt like this one was a bit of a cop-out really.

        1. Glad to hear Mark!

          I think the idea is that it’s open for interpretation but yeah I can see how you feel it’s a cop out. I just recently saw a film at a film fest from my own home country that I really like, but the ending made me think like the filmmaker didn’t know how to end it, which is frustrating!

          1. Yeah, I hate when it feels like the filmmaker ran out of ideas. I wouldn’t entirely say that The Lobster was like that but it came close for me. Still, there was plenty of creative and imaginative ideas on display.

            1. The thing is, I’m not smart enough to deduce if a filmmaker runs out of ideas or that he/she intends it to be open-ended for whatever reason. I think in this case it’s the latter, but I still wish it was a bit more resolved. Very true, it’s a very imaginative concept that makes you think about it for days, that alone is worth something 🙂

    1. It is indeed! Whatever bizarre quotient you think this is, double it, it’s THAT strange! But if you can get over the peculiar concept, I think it’s well worth your time.

  5. Nice review Ruth. I’ve been looking forward to seeing The Lobster for a long time, so it’s good to see a positive review. Hoping to catch this over the weekend.

  6. I saw this at TIFF and was so impressed with it. I loved the bizarre concept and unusual style but still managed to find it SO relatable as a single person dabbling in online dating.

    1. Hi Matt! I heard from someone from my home country Indonesia (which has a totally different culture than here in North America) find this film to be relatable. So that’s interesting how the Greek director can somehow tap into various cultures in regards to how society view (and expect) relationships. That’s commendable!

    1. Wow, a year ago?? Man I don’t get these varying release dates, but we seem to get the indie ones super late compared to Europe which is such a bummer. There are movies I had to purchase the UK dvd version just because it’s not even available to rent anywhere in the US 😦

  7. Good review Ruth. I like the deadpan line delivery, I read in another review that describes the funny parts as absurdist humor. I also think it’s pretty bleak in places. I didn’t mind the ending myself but I also liked reading your take on it. 🙂

    1. Yes, absurdist humor is right man, it’s really one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen. Thankfully it’s not overly bleak, but I certainly prefer the first half to the second because of that.

    1. If you’re a big fan of Farrell, you’ll love him in this one Ryan. Definitely one of his most unique performances to date. Hope you enjoy the movie!

  8. I’m with you on this one, Ruth! That ending frustrated me no end. Friends that I’ve spoken to seem to think it’s obvious he went through with it, but like you, I questioned the need! Still, I’ve never seen anything like this before and it was so entertaining 🙂
    – Allie

    1. Hi Allie! I wish I knew people in my circle who had seen this, none of my friends/coworkers had seen it, but fortunately many bloggers had. I’m definitely gonna rewatch this w/ my hubby so we could discuss it endlessly. I tend to think David did blind himself, but I kept scratching my head as to WHY?? I mean life would be increasingly more challenging for them if they’re both blind!

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  10. Great review Ruth! I’m glad you liked this. Its just so strange and bizarre yet utterly unique and original and so bitingly dark and satirical. And agree about Farrell. He’s really understated and really good in this. Can’t wait to see what Lanthimos cooks up next.

    1. I was sooo gungho on seeing The Lobster based on people’s reviews (including yours) and it did not disappoint! It truly was one of the most bizarre thing, but the strange-ness isn’t in the visual but in the concept, which in itself is unique. So yeah, curious to see what Lanthimos’s got cooking next, too!

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