Some movies cause an instant, visceral reaction–whether good or bad. And then there are movies that need to simmer a while. And then there’s The Lobster. Writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos’ first English-language feature film is beyond-quirky, often-unsettling, and a downright-esoteric bit of nuttiness that is more confounding than profound.

Colin Farrell stars as David, a forty-something schlub with a paunch (Farrell gained forty pounds for the role). In the wake of his wife’s leaving him, he checks into The Hotel, a homey place with a bizarre twist– you have forty-five days to fall in love with someone. If you’re successful great– you’re allowed to rejoin civilized society. If not, you are promptly turned into an animal; David’s choice is the titular crustacean.

What starts out as an amusing commentary on the anthropologic pressure to mate (Farrell hilariously pauses for a bit before deciding whether to register as a hetero- or homosexual) quickly turns into a dark (and often overly violent) story that seems like the result had Lars von Trier been tapped to direct The Hunger Games. But there’s also a good deal of fun, Wes Anderson-ish stylization and a definite Kubrick-esque feel, too.

Farrell, for his part, is great– turning in a career performance. And that’s saying something for a guy who has rarely gone the “Hollywood” route. His work in The Lobster is worthy of attention, even if the movie itself isn’t worthy of his talents. The supporting cast is spot-on, too, particularly the deadpan, matter-of-fact work from Broadchurch‘s Olivia Colman as the hotel manager, John C. Reilly as one of David’s fellow guests, and Lea Seydoux as the leader of a band of rebellious outsiders called The Loners, who are hell-bent on upsetting the apple cart.

Lanthimos is certainly onto something, and I don’t fault him for his choice of subject matter–it’s a concept well-worth investigating–but more often than not The Lobster feels like his attempt at a narcissistic coming-out party. It’s more arcane than acute, and his attempt to make up this strange new world seems like it should come with a preface stating, “You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of Lanthimos’ superior imagination. If you don’t get it, well… too bad.”


Somewhere, I’m sure there’s a gaggle of hipster cinephiles strutting out of a screening of The Lobster, proclaiming it a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. The majority of people, though, are probably wondering what the heck they just sat through.


2/5 stars