Words by: Jack Dawson
I have no idea how to approach this film. It’s not just the weirdest movie I’ve seen this year, or even the most off-putting, but it’s a movie that defies description or critique, mostly because it intentionally aspires to be everything that usually dooms a film. It’s an uncomfortable and awkward and almost terrifyingly alien experience, as well as the most distinctive film out in theatres right now.
Plus, I can’t think of any other film in existence that offered me the spectacle of John C. Reilly shoving his hand into a toaster after masturbating.
A man named David (Colin Farrel) has just been left by his wife of twelve years, which naturally means he has to travel to a Motel to meet a new partner, or else he’ll be turned into an animal. It’s okay, take a moment for that to sink in.
This is apparently perfectly normal; no one is allowed to remain single in this world, and those that try to do so outside of society’s control are forced to live in the woods, where they run the risk of being hunted down by the residents of the motel. Now, David is faced with a seemingly impossible choice, force himself into a relationship that he isn’t ready for, or become a lobster.
The greatest strength of this film, by far, is that it succeeds in creating an oppressive mood of distrust and unpleasantness. Everything from the stilted speech of the characters to the bleak set design contribute to this atmosphere, only occasionally breaking the mood for some Kafkaesque humour. The Lobster also does an admirable job of twisting many familiar elements of modern dating and society, and making them wholly disgusting. What few pleasant moments there are in the film shine all the brighter for the sea of discomfort that they dwell in.
But any film can be unpleasant to watch, there’s plenty of amateurs who manage it with little to no effort on their part. Even a film that tries this hard to be unpleasant needs a point to make, and damned if I have any idea about what this film is trying to say.
There are some points to be taken about how isolating it is to not be in a relationship, as well as the importance that society places on cultural norms that seem absurd out of context. But people being turned into animals, two equally monstrous societies based entirely on conflicting philosophies on relationships, the stunted emotional development that all of the characters possess – none of it seems add up to anything significant. Is it supposed to be a commentary on nanny states and over-regulation? Conservative politics? Stigmatization of sex?
There’s a lot of evocative imagery in The Lobster, but there’s never any sense that it serves a broader point. However, that may be a cause for celebration among some critics; that a film has come along which uses evocative imagery to tell a memorable story without having to resort to a pat all-purpose lesson for the audience. And maybe I’ve missed the point of the entire exercise.
There’s an irony at work here. Throughout the film David is frequently denied a wide variety of choice, being given either/or options. Only twice is a ‘third way out’ offered, and it involves him acting in a way that is contrary to his nature.
I can’t determine whether The Lobster is good or bad, and I don’t feel disposed to lie to you, so I’m just going to do what any normal person would do and choose from the hundreds of other options I have.
So go see it for yourself, and you can decide on your own. If nothing else, I promise you won’t forget it.