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The Lobster: London Film Festival Movie Review

Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos' deadpan black comedy is uproariously funny and is an original slice of science fiction which doesn't appear to be derivative like so many within the genre.

The Lobster, which screened at the 2015 BFI London Film Festival, is set in a painstakingly well organized dystopian world where being single is forbidden, and anybody unable to to find a 'match' is transformed into an animal of their choosing.

The story centres on Colin Farrell's worried David who attends a hotel style retreat in the country where he is given 45 days to find a partner.

The hotel is run by the excellent Olivia Coleman whose character is reminiscent of Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975).

Indeed, that movie is a fitting analogy for the first part of The Lobster, as the hotel is effectively a short stay institution full of desperate lonely people most of whom find it difficult to conform to the strict rules and protocols that Coleman's soft spoken dictator has laid out.

Masturbation is not tolerated and is punished by burning the offender's hand in a toaster and pretending to be suited to someone in order to be released results in instant animal transformation.

Farrell's character befriends two fellow awkward male companions, John C Reilly and Ben Wishaw - the latter has a limp and Reilly's oaf has a speech impediment. Indeed, all the characters have a defining characteristic which they need to match with another person - the phrase 'opposites attract' evidently does not exist in this repressed and paranoid world.

The humour in the film is, like any black comedy, rude, crude and and delivered with precision from an excellent cast.

There is a scene in which Wheatley's repeatedly bangs his face on a table bursting his nose open, in order to woo an attractive young woman who suffers from chronic nose bleeds.

Filmmaker Lanthimos holds the camera close to the British actor's face and the bout of self-harm is so sudden and brutal that it left the entire audience reclining with horror while laughing in agony.

The city in which couples and families live is a modern and clean police state where men and woman are questioned immediately about their status and asked for their documentation if they are in public without a partner.

But much like other well ordered dystopian fantasies there is an underground group of non- conformists and in this film they are known quite fittingly as 'the loners' people who choose to live in the forrest near the retreat, preferring their own company.

These feral recluses are hunted by the desperate retreat singles who are given dart guns and are awarded an extra day at the hotel for ever loner they retrieve.

Farrell, who would like to become a lobster if unsuccessful, is initially attracted to a sociopath played by Angeliki Papoulia.

And while Papoulia is unsurprisingly unable to find a partner, she is adept at violently apprehending loners and is therefore an indefinite resident at the retreat.

Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener) and Léa Seydoux (Blue Is The Warmest Colour) play two members of the loner group – which turns out to be as ideologically crazed as the rest of this twisted world, with loners who kiss and flirt having their lips mutilated.

 While the first half of the film is sleek and well constructed, the movie does feel around 20 minutes too long – and the second half of the film, which is largely set in the forest, does seem a little baggy with the director wanting to cram as much in as possible.

Lanthimos satirises conformity and the Western society's obsession with marriage beautifully. The dark tone of the film  reminded me of Richard Ayoade's The Double (2013), albeit less theatrical and stylised than that picture, and Spike Jones trippy classic Being John Malkovich (1999).

What makes The Lobster special is setting a comedy in a near-future dystopia - a terrifying place where people are scared to express themselves and live in fear of the state. There is surprisingly buckets loads of humour and jokes to be found in the characters' awkward need to conform and even the private conversations are stilted from fear of the relationship crumbling.

Lanthimos , who co-wrote the script with frequent collaborator Efthimis Filippou, continues to impress after previous successes Dogtooth (2009) and Alps (2011).

And the silly slap-stick jokes and clever observational humour were well received at this year's Cannes Film Festival, where it picked up the Jury Prize.

This is definitely one of the strongest comedies of the year. Four out of five stars.

Here's the trailer:

Image: Canal+