The overwhelming taboo surrounding romantic independence drives The Lobster, the latest low-key, high concept black comedy from Yorgos Lanthimos. In this us-but-slightly-different universe, if you haven’t found your “suitable partner” by a certain age, you’re turned into an animal. The pursuit of love isn’t just aspirational; it’s mandated. It’s also laff-out-loud funny as translated in film’s absolute apathy, which might be oppressively bleak were it not so consistent with its low emotional intelligence. Collin Farrell’s puppy-eyed David has 45 days at a soon-to-be couples’ resort to find his match before he is turned into the titular lobster. The conceit is a winning one, but it’s mostly a dim flashbulb illuminating The Lobster’s wry commentary on the lengths we are willing to go to find that special someone (please slide into these DMs). In an uncluttered look at the conventionally fraught language of love, The Lobster dehumanizes the very myth that separates man from crustacean.
Recently split from his wife of eleven years, David is once again thrown into dangerous singledom, and the countdown begins until he joins his brother (and much of this world’s population) in a new life as an animal. The hotel in which he searches for love has all the amenities for romance: uniform rooms and dress, eerily milquetoast entertainment, therapeutic hand jobs from the staff, endless rules and regulations. There’s squash games and the nightly outing of hunting “loners:” outcasts who have opted for life in the woods over governmentally mandated domestic bliss. The love peddled in the hotel is one comically mechanized, where a potential meet-cute is most likely in the discovery of a shared physical flaw. Limps pair with limps, lisps with lisps, chronic nose bleeders with others who know their way around oxyclean. David, paunchy and sad-dad mustachioed, can’t seem to find anyone with his particular set of characteristics, so he adopts the implied sociopathy of a potential partner. As she presciently notes, “love cannot be built on a lie,” and their romance ends in a tragic (and very disturbing) turn that leads David to escape amongst the hunted loners.
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