“What’s worse: to die of cold and hunger in the woods, to become an animal that will be killed and eaten by some bigger animal, or to have a nosebleed from time to time?”
This is a question posed by The Limping Man, played by Ben Winshaw, to the main protagonist David, played by Colin Ferrell in the Indie film The Lobster. The film itself, written and directed by Greek film maker Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth), is an odd, satirical take on relationships, and is summed up perfectly by the question posed by The Limping Man. It’s weird, it doesn’t quite make sense, yet it’s truthful to how we should view courtship and love.
In the film, all adults must be in a committed relationship, and if you’re not, you are sent to a hotel where you have 45 days to find a mate. If you fail to do so, you get turned into an animal of your choice. Some people refuse this model, and live as loners in the woods, only to be hunted by the people in the hotel in an attempt to earn extra days staying at the hotel. Desperate to find a mate, The Limping Man gives himself nosebleeds in order to connect to a young woman who naturally gets nosebleeds often. Based upon this physical attribute, the two are set up as a match to be paired together forever. When questioned about his lie by David, The Limping Man gives the aforementioned response.
The Lobster is not an easy watch. Every character talks like they’re acting bad on purpose and the slower pacing and nonsensical nature of this world Yorgos Lanthimos created I imagine would be daunting to most. Even as a lover of film I was tempted to bash it while watching it. It’s not a terribly pleasant viewing experience. Yet, the more I sit with it and think about, the happier I am that I saw the film. I enjoyed the points Lanthimos was making and the way he made them. While I could get bogged down in the details- like how a hotel designed to pair people couple together in 45 days would look nothing like the hotel seen in the film- it would mean that I am missing the forest for the trees. The point of The Lobster is not necessarily to tell a coherent short-form story, its purpose is to point out the absurdities of societal norms and constructs we have regarding dating and relationships.
The Lobster ends up also being a great showcase for Colin Ferrell. After beginning his career being pigeon-holed as a traditional leading man by Hollywood (see: SWAT, The Recruit, Alexander) after decent turns as the antagonist in major motion-pictures (Daredevil, Minority Report), Ferrell has redefined the second half of his career in a wonderful way. After teaming up with writer/director Martin McDonagh in 2008’s In Bruges (and later again in 2012’s Seven Psychopaths), Ferrell showed the world that he’s not your traditional leading man. Ferrell works best when he can act oft-kilter or when he’s playing second fiddle. His unique turn in even a big budget project like Horrible Bosses helped prove that Colin Ferrell is a great character actor stuck in a leading man’s body. Ferrell even took some of his looks from his Horrible Bosses character (mainly the gut) to play his role as David in The Lobster. Ferrell carries the film like he can, but between this and In Bruges, Ferrell is telling the world that if you want me to be great in your movie, you need to make it delightfully weird.