Review: The Lobster (2016)

The Lobster



Yorgos Lanthimos


Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou


119 min.


Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, Lea Seydoux, John C. Reilly, Angeliki Papoulia, Olivia Colman, Jessica Barden, Ashley Jensen, Ariana Labed, Garry Mountaine, Judi King Murphy, Rosanna Hoult

MPAA Rating

R for sexual content including dialogue, and some violence

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The absurdity of mating rituals have perplexed and confounded lovers of all ages and nationalities. Each culture approaches dating, relationships, and marriage in distinctly different ways, but all seem to agree that the ultimate goal of a union of souls is preferred to the depravity of being alone. Yorgos Lanthimos’ absurdist drama The Lobster explores how society controls the truth of romantic connections.

Being single in the future is not simple. The Lobster envisions a pseudo-futuristic world where being single is an affront to society. Singles are mandated by law to enter a cloistered relationship facility where finding a soulmate is required and failing to do so results in the utmost punishment, being transformed into an animal of the individual’s choice.

Forty-five days. That’s how long it’s expected for a human connection to form between two people within the small, contained facility. Colin Farrell plays David, a recently-widowed middle-aged man sent off to the facility. Among the myriad questions he must answer is what animal he would want to become. He chooses a lobster, for reasons best left explained in the film. His brother was turned into a dog and accompanies him to the facility where he must navigate the rigors of love with various persons who, through innumerable flaws, may be utterly unlovable, himself included.

Farrell has been doing some of his best work in the last decade, turning in a potent performance in In Bruges and even bringing substantial gravitas to his role in Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them. This effort gives the heartthrob an opportunity to explore a character who has so many hang-ups and foibles that finding love will be a monumental task.

His fellow cast members are strong, including Rachel Weisz in the role of an escapee of the facility who leads a resistance cell that lives harmoniously in the nearby forest, forcing the community’s members to remain alone. Weisz brings a tongue-in-cheek, knowing look to her rebellious leader with whom our protagonist will no doubt fall in love.

Director Lanthimos wrote the screenplay with Efthymis Filippou and it’s unlike anything most mainstream audiences have ever seen. The absurdity of the events in the film underlie a tense cultural imperative evident in modern society where those who are single are somehow seen as incomplete. Those who cannot find love either become animals or flee and become hunted like them. This surrealist drama would have found a warm home among the entries of the French New Wave. It’s clear that Lanthimos has found great inspiration among the works of Jean Luc Godard among others and those fond memories help elevate the material.

In terms of popular appeal, The Lobster isn’t likely to find many converts. It’s the kind of movie that relies entirely on cineastes to prop it up and support it. Years from now, it will still be fondly remembered as one of a small batch of bizarre social message movies that found refuge in an era of bloated, self-important blockbusters. Finding a trinket of value like The Lobster is satisfying when too little else can compare effectively.

Oscar Prospects

Nominated: Original Screneplay

Review Written

May 25, 2017

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