Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos has made a name for himself creating absurdist black comedies and delivering on outrageous premises with deadpan seriousness.
Dogtooth, released in 2009, examined a family keeping their children secluded from the outside world, while 2011’s Alps followed a troupe of actors who impersonate the recently deceased to help families through the grieving process.
Lanthimos’s first English-language film, The Lobster, is perhaps his most absurd premise to date. The film is set in a world in which all adults are legally required to be romantically partnered.
Singles, the widowed and the recently divorced are shipped off to a resort where they have 45 days to find a new spouse. If they fail to do so, they are transformed into an animal of their choosing and released into the wild.
The film delivers on this premise with dry, dark comedy and sharp insight, the obvious central metaphor being that the dystopian society on screen isn’t much unlike our own. Solitary lifestyles are devalued. We operate under the assumption any single person is merely between partners.
But the film’s smartest observations are its less obvious ones. The Lobster has a lot to say about oppressive and repressive societies and how the revolutionary reactions they inspire are usually equally oppressive.
The rebel groups in the film promote a single lifestyle with violence and intimidation, and anyone looking for a happy nuance or middle ground is in just as much danger as they were at the resort.
The cast is chock full of the type of actors who are great in whatever they’re in, including Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz and John C. Reilly. Their performances are necessarily restrained by the repressive setting and the film’s detached satiric edge, but a more sincere approach could have pushed the film into the stratosphere.
Still, Lanthimos executes The Lobster with confidence and wit. It’s a film sure to make you hilariously uncomfortable - whatever your relationship status.