Cannes 2015: High-end lunacy from the director of Dogtooth, with Colin Farrell
As Pat Benatar so wisely observed in the 80s, love is a battlefield or, in the case of Greek New Wave director Yorgos Lanthimos’ English-language debut, it is a bizarre hunting ground with a strict code of conduct. This surreal black comedy concerned with dehumanisation and lack of spontaneity in the online dating age is truly idiosyncratic.
The recently dumped David (a moustachioed and brilliant Colin Farrell) checks into a hotel where he must find a mate within a limited time period, or be transformed into an animal of his choice and released into the wilderness.
Applying the deadpan style we’ve come to expect from Lanthimos (the director of Dogtooth and Alps) he gifts his stellar cast – including Ben Whishaw and John C Reilly – dialogue that could be cribbed straight from the profiles of people registered to many an online dating site. Olivia Colman appears as the austere head of this romantic purgatory, and completely steals the show with a rendition of Gene Pitney’s 'Something’s Got a Hold of My Heart' in the style of hellish British holiday camp entertainment.
As part of an odd routine the guests have to introduce themselves by proclaiming their defining characteristic. They are then forced to hunt the Loners who occupy the surrounding grounds to earn extra days at the hotel. In this dystopian future being single has been outlawed. The absurdity of society has been a recurring theme in Lanthimos’ oeuvre. This time he candidly observes the way people are pressured into coupling up and sold the idea that it is the key to happiness; a notion that leads to desperate and deceitful measures.
David’s story gets progressively darker when he enters the world of the Loners, headed up by a fantastic Leá Seydoux. But instead of freedom he is once again expected to conform to rigid rules, or face humiliating punishment. The final act comes with a shift in tone which forgoes the hilarious one-liners in favour of emotional heft and introduces 'Short Sighted Woman' played by Rachel Weisz, who delivers a moving performance. The Lobster is as weird and wonderful as it sounds and will make you think twice before asking the dreaded question, 'Are you still single?'
Screening as part of Cannes 2015. General release from Fri 16 Oct.