High on cinephiles’ list of Cannes most-anticipated titles, Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Lobster” debuted to mixed but invariably intriguing reviews. The “Dogtooth” director’s English-language debut stars Colin Farrell as a man who must find a romantic partner within 45 days or be turned into an animal and let loose in the woods. As that thumbnail description suggests, “The Lobster” is even stranger than “Dogtooth,” its quasi-science-fictional setting offset by a familiar cast that also includes John C. Reilly, Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, and Olivia Colman. Initial reactions suggest viewers’ mileage may vary in direct proportion with their tolerance for philosophical whimsy, but it’s clear that using name actors and a larger budget hasn’t compromised Lanthimos in the slightest. If anything, it seems as if he’s used the latitude to push even farther, with results we can’t wait to see.
Reviews of “The Lobster”
Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair
If Charlie Kauffman, Miranda July, and Wes Anderson went into the woods together and all had the same vision quest hallucination, it might look something like “The Lobster,” the new film from Greek art house sensation Yorgos Lanthimos (“Dogtooth”), which premieres at the Cannes Film Festival today. It’s got Kauffman’s brainy, inventive, slightly dyspeptic sense of world-building, mixed with July’s dark, offbeat whimsy, and Anderson’s presentational style. Though, to reduce “The Lobster” to a series of comparisons is probably unfair; it’s very much its own unique animal, a strange swirl of satire, allegory, and metaphor that makes a rueful tragic comedy of modern romance.
Lee Marshall, Screen Daily
After “Dogtooth” and “Alps,” Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos and his regular screenwriter, Efithimis Filippou continue to mine an absurdist seam of black comedy-drama in their first English-language outing. The budget boost and all-star cast has done nothing to dilute the trademark weirdness of the Hellenic duo, nor their penchant for stilted dialogue. What lifts “The Lobster” beyond such avant-garde theatrical mannerisms, most of the time, is the pathos that seeps through the film’s unsentimental façade and its sheer belief in the dystopian world it delivers, a world in which single people are changed into an animal of their choice if they fail to find a partner within 45 days.
Robbie Collin, Telegraph
This isn’t the type of film Farrell normally goes for, to say the least, but he’s a revelation here – every bit as funny and hang-doggedly adorable as he was in Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, but with an additional tragic humility that makes The Lobster, despite its slicing weirdness, surprisingly moving. Every frame has been composed with cerebral coolness, and the hotel and its surrounding forests are shot with a dream-like lucidity. I haven’t seen anything quite like it before, and I’m still not sure that I have even now. This is the kind of film you have to go back to and check it really happened.
Guy Lodge, Variety
Lanthimos’ supremely singular fifth feature — his first in English — takes his ongoing fascination with artificially constructed community to its dizziest, most Bunuelian extreme to date. A wickedly funny protest against societal preference for nuclear coupledom that escalates, by its own sly logic, into a love story of profound tenderness and originality, this ingenious lo-fi fantasy will delight those who already thrilled to Lanthimos’ vision in “Alps” and the Oscar-nominated “Dogtooth,” while a starry international cast should draw as-yet-unconverted arthouse auds into his wondrously warped world.
Donald Clarke, Irish Times
The first two-thirds of “The Lobster” are properly funny in a way Lanthimos’ earlier films couldn’t quite manage. We are in a Nowhere, but the site of Colman and Garry Mountaine delivering a showband version of “Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart” will send a chill down many domestic viewers’ spines. The piece does loose a bit of steam in the later stages when we move away from the core locations. But this remains a poisonously effective work from an utterly singular director. You walk out feeling ever so slightly changed by it. There are few higher compliments.
Leslie Felperin, Hollywood Reporter
The stakes are high, but the director and key collaborators raise their game and the movie is boosted by the sort of eclectic acting line-up not often found outside the confines of a Woody Allen or Wes Anderson film. The result is a richly rewarding but often very disturbing, even harrowing work, and while the cast have clearly embraced the chance to go dark, make-up free and explore a different sort of method, even arthouse-friendly audiences may balk at this strange-flavored brew. In the future, however, it might just be recognized as a classic example of a genre only now just beginning to form.
Dave Calhoun, Time Out
Yes, “The Lobster” is arch: this is cinema in quotemarks, tongue-in-cheek storytelling that uses absurdity to hold a mirror to how we live and love. At its best, it has incisive things to say about how we shape ourselves and others just to banish the fear of being alone, unloved and friendless. Is it a cynical film, scoffing at romance and relationships? Or perhaps the most idealistic movie ever, arguing for truth and honesty on the path to love and happiness? Perhaps it’s both. If only it were able to maintain the best of its scabrous, surreal, inquiring writing all the way through instead of releasing it in short sharp bursts.
Eric Kohn, Indiewire
There are times when the scale of the story, with its ensemble of idiosyncratic characters and outrageous circumstances, strains from too many ingredients. However, the inherent absurdity of the premise maintains its appeal thanks to an unlikely combination of depravity and deadpan comedy. Lanthimos is aided in that tricky balance by a terrific cast, led by the frumpy Farrell in his most original performance ever.
Adam Woodward, Little White Lies
Lanthimos is no misanthrope, but it’s intriguing to see him depict people as inherently narcissistic, though perhaps this is more a comment on the ways in which we are expected to conform to various social archetypes. That’s the great thing about The Lobster, it leaves so much to interpretation. The deliberately stilted dialogue, internalized performances and frosty eroticism all contribute to the absurdist tone that marks this as another curiously unconventional, undemonstrative Lanthimos joint. It is anything but.
Oliver Lyttelton, Playlist
In the end, all the strangeness adds up towards something genuinely significant: an atypically rich and substantial comedy that’s stuffed with great scenes and performances even before you start to chew on its bigger questions. It’s Lanthimos’ most accessible and purely enjoyable film yet, and the first great relationship movie of the Tinder and match.com age. At one point, a character is asked what she wants to do on the night before she turns into an animal, and responds that she’d like to watch the movie “Stand By Me.” If “The Lobster” was the last film put before us before we were transformed into a pony, we wouldn’t complain.
Craig Skinner, Film Divider
This is all obviously highly absurd stuff but Lantimos is fully committed to his odd ideas, and levies an amusing strain of of-kilter comedy to sell the audience on his conceits. Numerous later scenes take place in the woods near the hotel, and when animals — some of whom are clearly not native — come strolling by, one can’t help but wonder who they might have been in human form. There’s a strange sort of creeping immersion that allows the audience to relate to and believe in what they at first found simply very funny.
Peter Bradshaw, Guardian
“The Lobster” is elegant and eccentric in Lanthimos’ familiar style: the world of the hotel is brilliantly created, and the film cleverly mocks the unexamined strangeness of hotels with all their corporate furniture of leisure and relaxation. But once we leave the hotel for the forest, some of the film’s energy, atmosphere and control is dissipated: the superbly clenched, angular weirdness and explosive gags lose their direction and force and Lanthimos’ distinctive weirdness begins to look self-conscious and contrived. The audience is waiting for a climactic transformation scene, or non-transformation scene, or a scene which nails that fascinating and touching idea of a lobster and a lobster’s mysterious destiny. Here, there is disappointment.
Steve Pond, Wrap
For most of its two-hour running time, “The Lobster” is seriously twisted and seriously funny. But when Farrell’s character stops hanging out with fellow lovelorn seekers like John C. Reilly and takes up with a fierce gang of singles who live in the woods, the sick fun slowly grinds to a halt, and the movie grows blacker and less sure-handed.
THE LOBSTER: If Charlie Kaufman doesn’t approve, Buñuel would. Dating is absurd, fundamentalism is everywhere, I laughed my ass off. #Cannes
— Aaron Hillis (@cobblehillis) May 15, 2015
— Matthew Anderson (@MattAndersonBBC) May 15, 2015
The Lobster: Lanthimos goes deep into distopic area again. His ‘Rules of Attraction’. One of the most original movies in years #Cannes2015
— Gabriele Capolino (@gabrielecapo) May 15, 2015
#Cannes2015 Yorgos Lamthinos’ THE LOBSTER is full-on allegorical cinema, determinedly weird, wacky & cynical. Good use of string quartets.
— Geoff Andrew (@Geoff_Andrew) May 15, 2015
So I feel terrible about being single after seeing Colin Farrell’s ‘The Lobster’… but deliciously so. So weird + great. #Cannes2015
— Jada Yuan (@jadabird) May 15, 2015
lanthimos’ THE LOBSTER is funny, surreal, bunuelesque. a great film. #Cannes2015
— Dominik Kamalzadeh (@Domkam) May 15, 2015
Really enjoyed The Lobster. Lanthimos has unique skill of making things bizarre + tender + true all at same time. Farrell on fine form.
— Eva Riley (@evarileyfilm) May 15, 2015
LOBSTER’s 1st half a Buñuel movie, while 2nd evokes Truffaut’s FAHRENHEIT 451, losing me a bit. Comparisons aside, still completely original
— Peter Debruge (@AskDebruge) May 15, 2015
The Lobster by Yorgis Lanthimos is a great leap forward for the exotic hotel movie genre. #Cannes2015
— Kate Muir (@muirkate) May 15, 2015
The best I have ever seen Colin Farrell, including In Bruges and also everything else he’s ever done
— Jessica Kiang (@jessicakiang) May 15, 2015
The Lobster (Lanthimos): 65. Struggling to find as much real-world resonance as I’d like, but this is much more DOGTOOTH than it is ALPS.
— Mike D’Angelo (@gemko) May 15, 2015
The Lobster is a bitterly funny, thought-provoking, overlong satire, recalling Swift, Huxley, Kafka & Morris (Chris) #Cannes2015
— Anna Smith (@annasmithjourno) May 15, 2015
The Lobster (Lanthimos) Makes Alps look like Sirk. Entirely contingent on PWQ (Personal Wackiness Quotient). Way, *way* off the chart for me
— David Jenkins (@daveyjenkins) May 15, 2015
Lanthimos’ LOBSTER has mise-en-scene to burn and a superb Colin Farrell at its center, but runs out of ideas well before the end. #Cannes
— Scott Foundas (@foundasonfilm) May 15, 2015
Loved THE LOBSTER although it does trail off a bit in the second half. Still, some absurd, mordant humor that recalled SCHIZOPOLIS for me.
— Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) May 15, 2015
THE LOBSTER (B) The body-snatchers won; then what? Fab ideas in early going, Buñuelian verve and wit. But dwindles. More Colman! Farrell vg.
— Tim Robey (@trim_obey) May 15, 2015
NEVER LET ME GO meets HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU meet 1984 #Cannes2015
— FilmLand Empire (@FilmLandEmpire) May 15, 2015
LOBSTER is a strange creature indeed, a darkly comic and surreal love story that doesn’t quite swim strongly right to the end #cannes2015
— Jason Gorber (@filmfest_ca) May 15, 2015
THE LOBSTER – bound in the carapace of its own surrealism. #Cannes2015
— Jonathan Romney (@JonathanRomney) May 15, 2015
The Lobster (5.7) – Loved the concept and Weisz; disappointed Lanthimos can still only direct actors to do one thing.
— Blake Williams (@Astrostic) May 15, 2015
THE LOBSTER (C+/B-): Fun seeing American actors working in tandem with Lanthimos’ deranged aesthetic. Way too gimmicky at times. #Cannes2015
— Glenn Heath Jr. (@MatchCuts) May 15, 2015
THE LOBSTER (Lanthimos) Another gimmick from YL, who I might like more if he worked w/ anything other than hollow signifiers. C+ #Cannes2015
— Jordan Cronk (@JordanCronk) May 15, 2015