In today’s socially-conscious world, it’s hard to make a good black comedy, something that’s funny in a morbid way that doesn’t offend anyone. One way to get around that is social commentary, and that is exactly what writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos accomplishes with “The Lobster”; it peers directly into the idea of coupling as not a good or a bad thing, but a social construct that hamstrings some, confuses many and finds just a select few.
In the world of the film, you have to be a couple in order to be a part of society. If you find yourself single at any point, you are sent to The Hotel where you are given a select amount of time to find a mate; if you don’t, you are turned into an animal of your choosing and released into the wild. Such is the case of David (Colin Farrell), who is dumped by his girlfriend and finds himself needing to find love soon or else he will be turned into a lobster.
The concept is so rich and ridiculous that the story finds humor with the escalating pressure to find a mate. John C. Reilly’s character (simply listed as Lisping Man) has his hand put in a toaster for masturbating. The nurses have to give a semi-lap dance to the men in order to keep them aroused and remind them of the allure of love. Loners are hunted down and shot with tranquilizers in the wild. When you go out in public, you must have proof of companionship in a formal document.
The sheer lunacy of it all is hysterical, but the commentary on our own world is enlightening. Why do we deem that people must find love? Why is that important for us? What is true companionship? How is love tested? What is love itself?
As David discovers over the course of the story, those loners they hunt out in the wild are not much for happiness either. Only when he meets the Short Sighted Woman (Rachel Weisz) does he get a taste of happiness, a glimpse into love. But even that is tested, and the ending of the film is ambiguous: Does he love her or was it passing infatuation? What is he willing to do for that love? Was it worth it? As the characters contemplate these questions, a random flamingo will wander past them, some poor wretch who never found that special someone; it is both terrifying and hilarious.
“The Lobster” makes you think, makes you laugh, makes you feel. It’s one of the best films of the year, an enveloping social commentary disguised as a comedy where the joke is on all of us who think we understand love.