The Lobster is the strangest romantic comedy on this side of the decade. Scratch that, its not so much a romantic comedy as a deadpan dystopian sci-fi. Well, no, its a idiosyncratic farce. You can try every which way to describe what The Lobster ought to be, but its easier to simply accept it for what it is.
Set in the near-future, David (Colin Farrell) has checked into a hotel and is tasked with finding a companion. Its the law: in this London, it is illegal to be single. If for any reason you find yourself single, either by stroke of turning 18 without a mate, or your wife of 12 years leaving you for another man, you must check in to The Hotel and find a suitable partner. The consequences of not finding a mate? You are turned into an animal, luckily of your own choosing. The pudgy, awkward, and jealous David would prefer to become a lobster, because they live for 100 years and he has always had an affinity for the ocean (he brings his brother with him, a sheep dog, who didn’t make it through the whole ordeal). Trouble is, he only has a limited number of days to do so. As such all the guests of The Hotel are forced into an awkward combination of mandatory singles mixers. Luckily, you can earn more days at the hotel by hunting down the single people living in the forest, who are pushed to the wilderness by society for preferring solitude over pairing.
If that alone doesn’t make you interested in The Lobster, then hopefully this will. Hidden in these bizarre hotel hallways and non-existent pick-up-lines is a thought-provoking, and ultimately, beautiful and primal love story. David eventually finds Short Sighted Woman (Rachel Weisz) and the two develop a tender though forbidden bond that brings purpose and meaning to the entire experiment (Colin Farrell is superb and continues to show his range and how criminally under-worked he is in the business). The Lobster positions itself as a contemplation of modern loneliness, and its easy to interpret much of its run time as a condemnation of traditional, covetous marriage and commitment. The animalistic metaphor is obvious: when you do not pair, you violate a basic natural principle, making you nothing more than a creature. This is mirrored in the treatment of the single “loners” in The Lobster as well, relegated to the forest to feed from foraging, dig their own graves, and attempt to make calculated incursions into the city for essential supplies. When we place so much emphasis on finding a partner and shaming those who are unable, its really only a turning-people-into-animals-scientific-leap away from reality. But as the love story progresses, The Lobster grows more and more endearing, and critically, more optimistic. The final scene is able to wrap all of these themes, both cynical and positive, into a neat and fascinating conclusion, one that will reveal much about who you are and how you feel about your partner based on your interpretation of it. The Lobster will leave you confused and, at time, certainly upset, but its quirky commentary is worth the price of admission. And if you don’t like it, they may just turn you into a dog.