Yorgos Lanthimos may be the spiritual child of David Lynch, but the Greek filmmaker has already proven to have a unique, distinctive voice. The Lobster, his English language debut, is reminiscent of his earlier Dogtooth – the only one of the director's features I've seen – in that it infuses an obviously absurdist setup with bone-dry humor and punctuates it with unexpected outbursts of gruesome violence. It's weird, inscrutable, and unforgettable.
In the film's alternate reality, single people check in to a posh European hotel, where they are given 45 days to fall in love with a fellow guest, or else get surgically transformed into an animal of their choosing, and let loose in the woods. Colin Farrell, giving an intentionally stilted performance, navigates this scenario, which draws from The Shining, 1984, and even The Hunger Games. ("Loners" are forced to hunt each other in the woods every night, armed with tranquilizer darts; each "kill" awards the hunter with an additional day to find a mate.) Surreal as it all is, it's a clear satire of societal expectations of romance, marriage, and that elusive thing called "compatibility".
Without giving much away – you're better off walking into this film without knowing much about it, including its cast – the story takes a sharp turn about an hour in, and for me the new setting and added characters weren't nearly as intriguing as its ghastly hotel. The Lobster – its title comes from Farrell's decision to be turned into one, should he fail to find a partner – starts to feel overlong during this second half, even though the film itself clocks in at under two hours.
It goes without saying that this film is not for everyone. But you can't deny its inventiveness, or Lanthimos' confident vision. The Lobster is a nightmare in the best sense of the word. It's a real work of art. Go see it.