Evidently, the future will be a lot like Logan’s Run, but for single people. Those who marry and nest together have no worries, but the unpaired will be transformed into animals and released into the wild. It is an extreme dystopian system, but it has its own strange logic. However, desperation will force one unmatched sad sack to think outside the box in Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos’s beyond-category English language allegory The Lobster (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.
After his wife absconds with another man. David must check into a “last resort” resort for singletons, where he will have forty-five days to find a mate or he be transmuted into a lobster, as per his preference. Obviously, the stakes are high, as he is constantly reminded by his brother Bob, who now accompanies him as his faithful German Shepherd (a Palm Dog Award winner at the Cannes Film Festival). Unfortunately, David is not good at flirting. However, difficult cases, such as his even more desperate friend, “The Man with the Lisp,” can extend their stays by one day for each renegade “loner” living in the surrounding forest they can bag with the resort provided tranquilizer guns.
Oh, but Lanthimos is just getting started. David will pursue a match with “The Heartless Woman,” hoping she will mistake his awkward aloofness for a similar misanthropy. When that strategy fails, he will go off the grid with the loners, but their rigid social conventions might be even trickier to navigate.
The Lobster is a deliriously bizarre film, but Lanthimos presents it all so matter-of-factly, we are compelled to suspend disbelief and just roll with it. There are vaguely identifiable precursors to some of Lobsters’ madness, like the ticking clock of the aforementioned Logan’s Run and the resort itself, which is not so very different from the Village in The Prisoner. Nonetheless, Lanthimos incorporates them in inventive and intriguing ways into a sly and subversive script (co-written with Efthymis Filippou) that keeps evolving in unexpected directions. This is not the sort of speculative film that starts with an intriguing premise, but continues to mine the same vein with diminishing returns. Lanthimos has plenty of stuff held in reserve for the third act.
Colin Farrell is wonderfully pathetic as David. It is truly an anti-star turn that is even more taciturn, fatalistic, and world-weary than his fine work in Ondine, Miss Julie, and London Boulevard. Yet, develops some truly unique romantic chemistry with Rachel Weisz, the “Short Sighted Woman” he meets amongst the band of Loners. Léa Seydoux is quietly ferocious as the fanatical Loner Leader, but nobody can approach the level of nuts attained by Olivia Colman as the resort manager.