The Lobster (2015/2016) Review

I watched The Lobster alone in a theater surrounded by couples, and in retrospect, I can’t think of a better way to experience this picture. Because The Lobster is a movie about being alone, and what society thinks of the people who have the audacity to be so in public.

The Lobster is one of those instant classic high-concept pictures that just works. Colin Farrell plays a recently single man looking for a new partner, and goes to a special dating hotel in order to find her. Should he be unable to find a new partner, he will be turned into an animal of his choosing – a lobster. And if he decides he prefers being single, then he’ll be hunted and turned into an animal, not of his choosing. As his time runs out, he has to decide whether to resign himself to crustacean life or try and survive by the much harsher rules of permanent single-life.

The “I-wish-I-thought-of-that” concept is matched by an absolutely brutal satire of contemporary dating culture; so much so that “dating story” is a much more apt description for this film than “love story.” Matchmaking in The Lobster is almost entirely arbitrary, with couples paired off after finding a single similarity that could be anything from both people having a limp, to having the same college major. As characters in the hotel introduce themselves, anyone who’s ever filled out an OKCupid profile will wince at the crushing familiarity portrayed on screen. Much of the movie will only be understood by anyone (most people today?) who’s tried online dating, as they watch the various actors essentially act out online dating face-to-face, with all the prerequisite wooden awkwardness. And it’s these aspects which make The Lobster the most relevant romcom in its day since The Graduate.

Adding to the dating satire is how the film treats being single. Besides literally making prey of single people, the hotel guests are forced to watch hilarious caricatures of the dangers of single life that nonetheless, for women at least, speak to something horrifically true to the real world. Being single in the film’s world is strictly illegal, and The Lobster shows you exactly how far people will go to maintain even the illusion of love under such circumstances. For instance, in a couple based on a predilection for nosebleeds, one of the pair repeatedly bangs their nose against things to keep up appearances. It’s an effective, if unsubtle metaphor for “love.”

The Lobster might also be the best straight dark comedy of the decade. Every joke lands and will make you laugh from the deepest, darkest pit of your being. This movie goes incredibly, bloodily dark, and will make you want to look away as much and as hard as you laugh. Additionally, this movie has some of the cruelest characters I’ve ever seen on film. One character is introduced as heartless early on in the film, and not only does the film absolutely make good on that promise; it later one-ups itself with a different character. And they’ll both make you laugh, even at the height of their cruelty.

The Lobster has probably the single most tense moment in any film I’ve ever seen, and it holds the tension for an almost impossibly long time. I couldn’t tell you how long the scene is, and no matter how many times I rewatch it, it will always feel too long. I was literally worried I wouldn’t be able to hold myself together without passing out. This one scene might actually be the most I’ve ever been physically affected by watching a movie, and its effect lasted long until after the credits began to roll. Honestly, this single moment makes the movie worth watching all by itself; and even if the rest wasn’t one of the most biting, brilliant, witty dark romantic-comedies I’ve ever seen; I would have to recommend it on the strength of this single scene. It provides the same heart and stomach pausing feeling as the drop of a roller-coaster just with an image. I honestly don’t think I can really describe, translate, or build-up the profound cinematic force of this scene. It might actually be dangerous to people with weaker hearts. That sounds hyperbolic, it’s not.

The Lobster is my favorite film since Mad Max: Fury Road, my favorite film of the year so far, and one of the strongest movies I’ve ever seen. Every single person reading this review should watch this movie.