For those of you desperate to find love before next Valentine’s Day, at least be grateful that you don’t have to worry about being turned into a pony if you fail to cinch a date. Director Yorgos Lanthimos’s wacky, unsettling dystopian comedy “The Lobster” explores a society that forces all the single people of the world to find a romantic partner in 45 days, or face the bizarre consequence of being turned into an animal of their choice.
David (Colin Farrell) kicks off the film by learning that his wife has divorced him. His 45-day journey to a new partnership begins at a hotel famed for bringing lucky couples together through tedious ballroom dances, amateur concerts of romantic ballads, and draconian oversight from hotel staff- but mostly the looming existential threat of animal transformation.
David struggles to find love within these unnatural constraints, but the fear of being turned into a lobster forces him into morally ubiquitous territory.
David’s trials in finding love never ceases to critique the more absurd trends of today’s romance-obsessed society with a finely sharpened wit- for example, each romantic pair must match their defining features, like in David’s case, being short-sighted. Failure to find another short-sighted person means that our protagonist must face a crustaceous future.
The folly of reducing each person to a single quirk like weak eyesight constantly plagues the beleaguered menagerie of characters- and may remind viewers of their own similarly painful and reducing experiences of filling out dating app bios. Yet at the same time, the film doesn’t fall into the hackneyed role of acerbic outsider; it equally condemns the clan of romantic rejects who have given up on finding partners.
Led by a coldly authoritarian Seydoux, a nomadic tribe of sworn celibates wages war on the hotel, fighting valiantly against the shallow version of love that it enforces. Yet David finds no solace there. In fact, he suffers the misfortune of finding love with a short-sighted woman (Rachel Weisz) in the very place it is denied to him.
He must not only protect his new relationship from the violence and suppression of the loners, but must also reckon with the tribe’s more mundane cruelties, such as only permitting electronic music on dance nights.
The Lobster masterfully blends comedy with fear, absurdism with hard-hitting reality, and detachment with empathy and passion. Single or not, you’ll find David’s struggles endearing and relevant- even if you never find yourself confronted with animal transformation for failure to get a swipe right. Let that small blessing comfort you as you go forth bravely into the perilous dating world.