|'A consistently, bizarrely, brilliantly unique film experience'.|
During The Lobster's opening scene, director Yorgos Lanthimos shows us a woman driving through the rain. She pulls over by a field of donkeys, walks over to one of the animals (tottering a little in her heels) and shoots it dead. All of this is shown to us as a voyeuristic shot through the car windscreen still being cleared of raindrops every few seconds. It serves as a neat summation of the director's film: surreal, stark, and - as we never see the woman, or indeed the donkey, again - spectacularly ambiguous.
In the hands of a lesser director, this could be the recipe for a cinematic train wreck. In those of Lanthimos, it provides a consistently, bizarrely, brilliantly unique film experience. The Lobster has the look and feel of an incredibly high quality piece of cinema from start to finish, whilst also succeeding in creating a dystopian society both authentic and uncanny within which Lanthimos' strange tale can unfold.
The idea of relationships is core to The Lobster, although, like so many elements of his film, what Lanthimos is actually saying about them is masterfully left open to interpretation. The film's world is one which places great importance on its inhabitants not only on becoming couples, but in finding someone with the same "defining characteristic" as them - anything from a warm smile to a limp. Those who are single for any reason, such as recently separated main character David (Colin Farrell), are sent to fall in love at The Hotel within forty five days, after which time unsuccessful guests are transformed into an animal of their choice. The narrative plays out something like Logan's Run collectively reimagined as a love story by Kaufman, Kubrick and Kafka, and is just as weird and utterly captivating as that sounds.
Lanthimos succeeds in making The Lobster a film that is equally dark, funny and affecting. There are moments of uncomfortable brutality and pitch black satire, as well as pure comedy generated from some small but effective moments - watch for a variety of animals, presumably former Hotel guests, included in shots where you'd least expect them. The playfulness of The Lobster's tone and sense of humour is often endearingly childlike, with the film also displaying a sincerely mature intelligence in both its themes and execution. Ideas of falsehood, compromise, sacrifice, oppression and conformity are regularly touched on through various channels, perhaps most clearly through The Hotel as an authoritarian establishment. The benefits of being a couple are overtly reinforced at every opportunity there, and anything that doesn't fit is simply not permitted - David isn't allowed a half-size pair of shoes to fit his feet, just as bisexuality isn't an option for his sexual preference upon his arrival.
Stripped down to its bare bones, however, The Lobster is a love story. It's something which Lanthimos allows to come through more and more throughout his film's running time, crafting several touchingly sweet and genuinely emotional scenes towards the end. The eclectic cast - featuring such enticing talents as Ben Whishaw, Olivia Colman, John C. Reilly and Michael Smiley - are collectively brilliant and headed up by a flawless performance from Farrell, who is joined by an equally superb Rachel Weisz during the middle act.
There is simply too much of worth contained within The Lobster to do it justice through written words on a screen. It's an original, unsettling and fascinating piece of cinema that can arguably most closely be equated in terms of ambition, execution and comprehensive success with Jonathan Glazer's Under The Skin. It's almost guaranteed that Lanthimos' film won't be for everyone, but it's that resolute nature to make something as distinct and individual as his end product that makes The Lobster a truly extraordinary contender for film of the year.