Best of 2016: #5. The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos)

lobster2-065. The Lobster. Yorgos Lanthimos. Greece/Ireland/Netherlands/UK/France.

After watching The Lobster, a friend suggested to me that it would have been more apropos to title the film Heterosexuality: A Satire instead. That’s probably the best summation I’ve heard with regard to Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos’ English-language debut, a hilariously grim dystopian parable that won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year (before making it stateside in May of this year). Set in an undisclosed town, which happens to be filled almost exclusively with Irish and French people, The Lobster takes place in a society where single people are sent to a strange hotel, which serves as an awkward speed-dating arena-meets-middle-school-cotillion where people are given forty-five days to find a mate or are turned into an animal and sent to the woods.

lobster-00As inventive as the setup may be, The Lobster always ran the risk of wearing out its rigid, quirky premise, which on paper sounds better suited for a short film, but Lanthimos’ imagination runs a lot deeper and a lot wilder than a single cute idea. As soon as the film moves away from the central hotel is when it really comes to life. As we follow our protagonist, an affable, near-sighted divorcé played by Colin Farrell, from the heteronormative battleground to the forest, inhabited by outlaw singletons, the themes and paradoxes of The Lobster truly begin to emerge in a manner both sinister and whimsical.

lobster2-09With The Lobster, Lanthimos, whose 2009 feature Dogtooth ranks among the weirdest films to ever receive an Academy Award nomination (it competed in the foreign category but lost to Susanne Bier’s forgettable In a Better World), infuses complex ideas with a sharp, nuanced tone that can best be described through conflicts. The Lobster is both romantically bleak and sympathetically cold, and it can be defined by its mannered outrageousness and its hopeful brand of misanthropy. And on a side note, it’s officially (and fittingly) the last film I will ever recommend to my parents after twenty years of making poorly judged movie suggestions to them.

lobster2-10The Lobster premiered at Cannes in 2015, but was released in the U.S. earlier this year through A24 Films. It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime in the U.S.

With: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, John C. Reilly, Ariane Labed, Angeliki Papoulia, Ashley Jensen, Olivia Colman, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Michael Smiley, Jessica Barden, Gary Mountaine, Emma O’Shea

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