There aren’t many films you could file under science fiction, dystopia, romance, thriller, comedy and satire and still feel like you’re not fully doing it justice. But then you probably haven’t yet seen The Lobster.
In the new movie from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos – best known for 2009’s Dogtooth and working here in English for the first time – single people are ordered to go to a hotel, usefully called The Hotel, where they have 45 days to find a suitable partner and return to society. If they fail, they are transformed into an animal of their choosing and sent to live out the rest of their days in The Woods (you guessed it).
If all that sounds nutso, you’re not wrong. But The Lobster is also funny, clever and full of brilliant performances, not least from Colin Farrell, who, as the downtrodden protagonist David, would like to be turned into a lobster should it come to it (“They have blue blood. And I genuinely like the sea”). It’s a very funny deadpan turn, and the Irishman’s most adventurous role in years.
Elsewhere, Rachel Weisz is perfect as David’s short-sighted and awkward lover; Ben Whishaw and John C Reilly reek of desperation as his sort-of friends; and Olivia Colman steals every scene as The Hotel’s terrifying manager. When Maggie from Extras and Big Keith from The Office pop up, the cast feels as surreal as the script.
But what does it all mean? Perhaps The Lobster is taking aim at romance in the digital age, where we reduce compatibility to a sterile list of qualities and interests to contrast and compare (residents at The Hotel must prove they have something in common before they are anointed a couple, even if it’s a propensity for nose bleeds). The formulaic and weirdly stunted way the characters pursue potential mates brings 1,000 identikit Tinder chats to mind.
It’s just one theory you’ll mull over afterwards, but like all great art – to borrow from TS Eliot – The Lobster communicates before it is understood. It’s a film you’ll think and talk about long after its credits roll, which in 2015, feels like a delicacy in itself.
The Lobster is out on 16 October