Sarah McMullan’s review published on Letterboxd:
No one does deadpan surrealism quite like Yorgos Lanthimos. Anyone who has seen his previous films, DOGTOOTH or ALPS, will be familiar with just how black he’s prepared to go when weaving comic tales with serious underlying themes. This, his first work in English is no different. In fact, I would go so far as to say it’s his best yet.
Set in a dystopian world where everyone must be part of a couple, those that find themselves cast adrift are given 45 days to find love at a governmental mandated facility. Think hotels from hell, all carefully non-intrusive furnishings and group activities. It’s like a corporate bonding weekend but worse, because should you fail to find love, you will be turned into an animal of your choice. No odd numbers allowed here.
There is one way and one way only to extend your stay and thus improve your chances of finding your perfect match: hunt down the feral singles living in the nearby forest. Every feral single shot earns you an extra day to find love.
The pity and revulsion felt towards these unattached outcasts is palpable: how could they possibly think of a life on their own? True fulfilment can only come from another person, facility management approval pending.
As the increasingly desperate antics of those terrified of undergoing the transformation from man to beast highlight the absurdity of the societal notion that you MUST be part of a couple, our protagonist David, a cuckholded architect with an unfortunate moustache (Colin Farrell in his best role since In Bruges) discovers that he does have a limit, and that maybe, the Lobster will use his pincers to fight back.
With an incredible cast of British comic actors including the wonderful Olivia Coleman as the extremely officious Hotel Manager, Ashley Jensen, Ewen MacIntosh and Michael Smiley; as well bigger names like John C Reilly, Lea Seydoux and Rachel Weisz, this is an ensemble cast of exquisite talent.
Long-time collaborator of Lanthimos, cinematographer Thimios Baktakis cleverly uses the surroundings to reflect the characters state of mind and the changes they’re undergoing, subtly underlining the innate differences as well as the surprising similarities between the feral singles and the love lashed on a day to day basis.
Both laugh out loud funny as well as heart achingly sad, this is a tender, strange film that will stay with you; a film that will demand a second viewing, a film that may have you asking some difficult questions of yourself and others.
It’s been a standout of the year so far for me.