The Lobster, sadly, didn’t win the Outstanding British Film at the BAFTAs, as that went to Brooklyn, but if it were available, it would easily win the ‘Weirdest Film’ award of the past year.
The premise is simple – Colin Farrell is David, one of a number of individuals who have to go to The Hotel, where you will spend the next 45 days trying to find a mate amongst the rest of the residents. If you couple up, you get to escape, in due course. If not, then you’re turned into an animal of your choosing. David wants to become a lobster, as they get to live for 100 years, although as Ben Whishaw’s character puts it – with his downward spin on things – he’ll instantly die the moment someone decides he should be chucked into a pot of boiling water.
As hotel manager Olivia Colman states early on, “You have to choose an animal which is similar to you. A wolf and a penguin could never live together. Neither could a camel and a hippopotamus. That would be absurd.” And the premise of this film is??
During his time in The Hotel, David will get to spend it with Bob, his dog. Who is actually his brother, as he’s been around the block with this place and it didn’t work out, clearly.
Like many of the cast on display, Farrell brilliantly underplays his character. Unlike Farrell, his character actually has a name. Whishaw is known as The Limping Man. John C Reilly is The Lisping Man, Ashley Jensen is Biscuit Woman, and Angeliki Papoulia is Heartless Woman.
As it begins, there’s no explanation how he ended up in this place. It’s just ‘the done thing’, but you have to give up all personal belongings. In reality, who on earth would fund such a place?? It’s completely mad! Of course, as it plays out, some of the mystery is revealed – well, you don’t want ALL of the bafflingness* to be explained, do you? That’s part of the fun! (*if that’s a word. It isn’t.)
In The Hotel, everyone’s dressed the same, restaurant tables are all single and all face one way, the narrator sounds like an audio description track, there’s an utterly mismatched pairing for Olivia Colman as the Hotel manager, and Garry Mountaine as her partner (the scene featuring his introduction being just one of many that had me in fits of laughter given the positioning of the camera) singing Something’s Got A Hold On My Heart, there are so many bizarre slow-motion pieces and then there’s the hunt, with the 20 tranquiliser darts provided in their room. Initially, I thought this was to trap a potential mate, but it’s more like a soft version of Hard Target as they have to capture loners, aka escapees, so they can get extra days added to their stay, at a rate of one per loner.
Finally, you also learn who the characters are portrayed by Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux and Michael Smiley. I don’t want to say who their characters are or what they do, but like everyone else on view, they are equally brilliant.
The Lobster is a movie which has some links with The Prisoner, since, unless you find a mate, there’s no escape from The Hotel, and they’re also only known to the staff as a number… their hotel room number.
Nothing stacks up in this alternate reality, but that’s what makes it such a joy to watch. It’s utterly and brilliantly mental, I was laughing long and often and there’s a “What the fuck??!” moment at every turn, even right down to the staff taking everyone out to the hunt, themselves staying dressed as if they’re still waiting on tables.
I could say a lot more about it, but I’d just start revealing elements that should be left hidden until you see them, and the fun is in discovering these. In addition, I’ve never seen any films from director Yorgos Lanthimos before, but I understand I should next go for Dogtooth.
Note: This review is just for the film only.
Running time: 118 minutes
Studio: Spirit Entertainment
Format: 1.85:1 (ARRIRAW (3.4K))
Released: February 8th 2016
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Producers: Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Yorgos Lanthimos and Lee Magiday
Screenplay: Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou
David: Colin Farrell
The Limping Man: Ben Whishaw
Lisping Man: John C Reilly
Biscuit Woman: Ashley Jensen
Short Sighted Woman: Rachel Weisz
The Maid: Ariane Labed
Hotel Manager: Olivia Colman
Heartless Woman: Angeliki Papoulia
Loner Leader: Léa Seydoux
Loner Swimmer: Michael Smiley
Donkey Shooter: Jacqueline Abrahams
Doctor: Roger Ashton-Griffiths
Nosebleed Woman: Jessica Barden
70 Year Old Waiter: Anthony Dougall
Guard Waiter: Sean Duggan
Loner Leader’s Father: Roland Ferrandi
Bald Man: James Finnegan
Restaurant Waiter: Robert Heaney
David’s Wife: Rosanna Hoult
Bob The Dog: Bob the Dog
Police Officer 1: Kathy Kelly
Trainer Waiter – Shooting Range: Ewen MacIntosh
Campari Man: Patrick Malone
Arrested Town Woman: Sandra Hayden Mason
Police Officer 2: Kevin McCormack
Bandaged Loner: Ishmael Moalosi
30 Year Old Waiter: Anthony Moriarty
Hotel Manager’s Partner: Garry Mountaine
Guest Room 104: Judi King Murphy
New Daughter: Laoise Murphy
Loner Leader’s Mother: Imelda Nagle Ryan
Receptionist: Nancy Onu
Trapped Loner: Matthew O’Brien
Nosebleed Woman’s Best Friend: EmmaEdel O’Shea
Coach Driver Waiter: Chris Threader
Piano player: Cian Boylan (uncredited)
Waiter: Degnan Geraghty (uncredited)
Lisping Loner Woman: Seána Kerslake (uncredited)
Waitress: Heidi Ellen Love (uncredited)
Waiter: Mark McCormack (uncredited)
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.