There’s nothing sentimental about “The Lobster,” but that doesn’t mean it’s cold. There’s a warmth somewhere deep in its damaged heart, and it only shows when things are about to get chilly. For a movie about state-sanctioned monogamy and the toxicity of relationships for relationships’ sake, that bleakness is earned.
From the first frame, watching “The Lobster” is like walking into a freezer. Walking out doesn’t mean you’ll thaw. Chances are, you’ll stay frozen long after the credits roll. It’s detached and quiet, rhythmic and operatic, in all the best ways It’s ambitious in a way few movies dare to be. Part of the movie’s appeal is how eagerly it follows its premise. Newly single people are sent to the Hotel, a place where they have to find love in 45 days or they’re turned into an animal of their choice.
David (Colin Farrell), after his wife of 12 years leaves him, is the newest check-in. If he fails to find a partner, he chooses to turn into a lobster. They live for 100 years, remain fertile their whole life and live in the ocean, which he loves. With him is his brother, now a dog, a failed resident of the Hotel. He meets Robert (John C. Reilly), who has a lisp, and John (Ben Whishaw), who has a limp.
The story expands far beyond that, but I won’t spoil it. It’s a long journey, and more expansive than it seems at first. What starts out as a quirky, if despairing, low-key comedy becomes a brutal exploration of meeting your “match.” The movie peels its quirk back slowly, building to a darkness that will rightfully turn some viewers off. But there’s a reason to fight through.
“The Lobster” is an absurdist epic with layers upon layers of meaning. Combing through its dense surface only leaves deeper, more complicated avenues to explore. Viewers with the mettle to pull through will be richly rewarded. As an example, most of the characters connect based on their perceived flaws. Rob has a lisp, John a limp and David is short sighted. There’s little else to the relationships they form.
If it wasn’t clear already, those relationships are as shallow as can be. But everyone fights to stay in them. The question becomes, is being turned into an animal any worse than breaking off parts of yourself to fit with another broken person? “The Lobster” is a movie so thematically divided that the answer could be either ambiguous or clear as day. No summary or review will help you understand. Instead, here’s some advice, watch it now and decide for yourself.