“The Lobster”: In Which Singlehood? Not So Good

In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods. IMDB, describingThe Lobster

Eileen G’Sell, Salon, calls The Lobster “your wedding season anxiety antidote,” and  Amy Nicholson, MTV, “a cynical sci-fi comedy about life’s most clichéd script: pair off or perish.” Because? The premise of The Lobster is that it’s just not okay to be single.

Watch the trailer here or read on first for some explanations:

Dave Calhoun, Time Out, offers more plot details:

If you’re not in a relationship, you’re in purgatory: straights are fine, so are gays, but bisexuals are outlawed just like half shoe sizes. If you don’t find a partner within 45 days, you’ll turn into an animal ([Colin] Farrell, our main focus, has already decided he’ll be a lobster). If you escape, your fellow captives will hunt you down with tranquiliser darts: for each ‘kill’, you gain a day.

Leah Pickett, Chicago Reader, notes that Farrell’s David has been left by his wife, which explains why he’s now in this predicament. He arrives at the hotel with his sheepdog—who, by the way, used to be his brother—and there he meets other singles:

Except for the myopic David, each of them is named after his or her defining characteristic: the Limping Man (Ben Whishaw), the Lisping Man (John C. Reilly). The singles are told that their soulmate must share their defining characteristic for their match to be ‘well suited.’ Otherwise, they needn’t bother looking; they’ll never find the One.

“Lovers are not mutually drawn by their most attractive virtues, [director Yorgos] Lanthimos appears to argue, but by the shortcomings that they recognize in each other,” Guy Lodge, Variety, points out. “If common myopia or vulnerability to nosebleeds seem tenuous bonds on which to build a relationship, are they any less so than shared enthusiasms for Mexican food or long walks on the beach?”

Are there individuals who forego society’s demands for pairing up? A.O. Scott, New York Times:

Out in the woods, the loners practice guerrilla warfare and declare their opposition to the sexual regulation and tyrannical monogamy represented by the hotel. Their leader (Léa Seydoux) tells new recruits that they can masturbate whenever they want. But as is so often true of revolutionary movements, this army of freedom fighters mirrors the dominant society in its capacity for brutality and coercion. Any kind of romantic or erotic attachment is forbidden, and disciplinary methods range from comical to horrific.

THEMES AND CONCLUSIONS

Eileen G’Sell, Salon:

…’The Lobster’ isn’t really against romantic love, or even romantic monogamous love, but rather the bedrock weight that society has placed on such a union, and the inevitable failure of faux unions forged out of fear of stigmatization. The connection developed between Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz about halfway through the film is among the most tender affairs rendered onscreen in some time, in part because it is not prescribed but forbidden…(T)he film even acknowledges that sometimes two are better than one…

Leah Pickett, Chicago Reader:

Rather than present romance as a panacea, as so many other films do, The Lobster not only questions the value almost every society in the world places on procuring a mate but also rejects the notion that finding the One is the ultimate prize. Lanthimos forgoes easy sentiments about the transformative power of love; this may turn off some viewers, but there’s a certain liberation and even some relief in knowing that societal pressure to settle down can be just as cruel as loneliness.

Guy Lodge, Variety:

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