The Lobster – LFF Review

The Lobster

In a world much like our own being single has become tantamount to a crime. Anyone finding themselves unattached through divorce, death, or simply unsuccessful dating must go to The Hotel. There they have 45 days to find a partner, essentially someone who shares one distinct trait with them, or be transformed into an animal of their choice. The Hotel is run by Olivia Colman who gives lectures on why being in a couple is a good things and how it might prevent you from dying or being raped. The message here is clear; if you are single you might as well not be human.

Out in the forests hides an outcast group who cannot live in polite society anymore. This group is known as the Loners and are led by a militant Léa Seydoux. In this group being in a couple is the ultimate betrayal and even kissing or flirting are punished violently. Independence is the only valuable attribute and each Loner is even expected to dig their own grave in case they die. Running away to join the Loners is your only alternative if your time runs out at the Hotel and you want to keep your human face.

Our guide through this peculiar world is David (Colin Farrell) who reluctantly checks into The Hotel at the start of the film with his dog-shaped brother in tow. He has 45 days to find himself someone with a matching distinguishing feature or he will find himself transformed into a lobster; the logical form to choose for his post-human years. Inside the hotel he is joined by a limping man (Ben Whishaw), a woman who has nosebleeds (Jessica Barden), a man with a lisp (John C. Reilly), a woman who loves biscuits (Ashley Jensen), and a heartless woman (Angeliki Papoulia). All of them, barring perhaps the heartless woman, are desperate to find whatever passes for love in this world. Meanwhile out in the woods the likes of Michael Smiley and Rachel Weisz do their best to be friendly but not flirty and evade capture from The Hotel’s residents. The cast is crammed with a fine selection of British actors and it is a great endorsement that director Yorgos Lanthimos chose to make this film in the UK rather than the US.

The Lobster 2

Yorgos Lanthimos has brought his distinctly dry humour to his first English-language feature. As you can presumably tell from what I have described the film forms a scathing satire on the modern world of dating and selecting a partner out of desperation based on the most trivial of compatibility criteria. Every line spoken in the film in done so in a completely deadpan manner making the more absurd dialogue seem sane and turning mundane conversation surreal. I got the distinct feeling that Lanthimos has looked at the world, found it ridiculous, and wants to show us the insanity he sees.

The Lobster is an incredibly funny and smart film. It takes the norms of our societal rituals and expectations and blows them up to be seen for the madness that they really are. The film has a lot of clever ideas and humorous moments and is a pleasure to watch but struggles when trying to thread a plot through all the metaphor. This being a film about love it can’t resist having a love story rear its ugly head. The romance in question is sweet but the insistence on deadpan delivery dampens any emotions. That said the muted nature of the romance adds to the general mood and message of the film so is far from out of place.

The Lobster will provide you plenty of chuckles and a few wry knowing smiles and is a unique confection from one of our most creative modern filmmakers. Once you’re in sync with the film’s unique rhythm you’ll be lost in its world.

Lobster screens at the festival again on the 15th October but sadly has sold out. Luckily it is released on the 16th anyway so not to worry.

In the Dark Half – Film Review

Marie (Jessica Barden) is a young girl struggling to cope with a major loss. When the neighbour’s son she is baby-sitting dies under her care she fears that a mysterious force is coming for her. An uneasy relationship with the neighbour (Tony Curran) forms as they both try to come to terms with their grief.

In the Dark Half is a tricky one. The direction is solid and both Curran and Barden give great performances as two people who have suffered a great deal. The weak link is the plot itself as a half-explained mythology about spirits in the woods becomes ever more prevalent and tedious. The film is a strange mix of the surreal and the boring, the confusing and the bland. Perhaps it was striving to be enigmatic but got stuck with simply never quite making sense.

By the film’s end I was truly frustrated. The plot involving a child’s death had reached a ridiculous crescendo involving an Action Man figure and Marie’s own story ends with a plot twist so inconsequential as to be completely redundant. Plot twists should make you reconsider every moment of the film you have seen not simply make you shrug with indifference. I left the screening frustrated and let down.

Your cut out and keep summary:

In the Dark Half is filled with superb performances and its strong direction creates a truly unsettling atmosphere where you are always sure that something isn’t quite right. What lets In the Dark Half down is its core plot, which never quite makes sense, and the film’s plot twist which felt unnecessary and changed absolutely nothing about the story up to that point.

Hanna – Review

I’ve approached this post many times since seeing Hanna a few weeks back, but have struggled to successfully review Joe Wright’s latest film, a fast paced actioner about a young girl raised as a killing machine and set the task of assassinating an intelligence agent. The film is such a mash-up of styles and genres that I am going to have to review it in pieces and then as a whole.

Here are the pieces:

  • The beginning is essentially Leon in a forest, as a well-meaning European takes care of a girl and teaches her his best skill: killing. This is done well and sets an off-kilter tone to the film. Good stuff.
  • I say a well-meaning European but Eric Bana’s accent is very hard to place and is a bit distracting. Bad stuff.
  • An early chase scene is shot in such a dynamic way and edited with fantastic kaleidoscopic energy that it felt like a music video, not least because of the score provided by The Chemical Brothers. This from the director of Atonement? Amazing stuff.
  • Cate Blanchett plays more a caricature than a character as Marissa the intelligence agent both hunting and being hunted by Hanna. Think more the white witch from Narnia than Scully. Although the hair… Alright stuff.
  • On her travels to kill Marissa and reunite with her father, Hanna comes across a bohemian British family on holiday. Jason Flemyng and Olivia Williams are the comedy middle class parents who find Hanna’s independence charming, while Jessica Barden is the snobby daughter who befriends Hanna and brings one of the films touching moments. For fun and heart: Good stuff.
  • On two separate occasions Hanna manages to stumble upon locals of the various countries she visits engaging in spontaneous group singing that perfectly reflects the local culture. It’s a bit too ideal. Mediocre stuff.
  • Tom Hollander plays a suitably creepy European sex club owner who for some reason doubles as a suitably creepy bounty hunter, happy to torture his way to finding Hanna for Marissa. Odd stuff.
  • Towards the end there is a pretty lame plot twist that you see coming early on. Disappointing stuff.
  • What made me love Atonement was a single shot that involved hundred of extras, a long beach and a skillful camera work. Hanna has a couple of these shots, not quite as impressive but each its own technical marvel. Awesome stuff.
  • Finally it should be said that Saoirse Ronan is amazing as the deadly but naïve girl who is utterly selfless and will kill you as soon as kiss you. Brilliant stuff.

So Hanna is filled with stuff of varying levels of quality. Joe Wright is certainly talented and is breaking new ground for himself but lacks consistency within the one film. Quite satisfyingly (from a linguistic point of view) his directing style flits between Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, at one moment moving his camera in a controlled and understated fashion and the next he whips and cuts like he’s scared of losing your attention.

This is precisely what is wrong with Hanna, while the film has plenty of good stuff it doesn’t all gel into a coherent film. Joe Wright has got two jigsaws mixed up and the pieces may look like they go together but on closer inspection don’t quite fit.

Good fun though.

Tamara Drewe – Review

It might be because I was a bit of a wreck after having to walk into central London thanks to tube strikes, but I found Tamara Drewe a bit difficult.

There were funny bits and moving bits but all in all they were just bits and as a whole the film was very bitty. I certainly wouldn’t say that Tamara Drewe was the focus, nor the most appealing character. Well certainly not appealing on an emotional level, though Arterton does look lovely.

The films flits about all over the place revealing one flawed character after another leaving you rooting for just Tamsin Greig’s put upon wife, who will ultimately break your heart a little. If this was supposed to be a romantic comedy then the couple I think we were supposed to be rooting for gets together for no real reason and provided a bit of a flat ending. Both characters used others at various parts of the film so I didn’t particularly need them to have a happy ending.

Oh it’s all so bizarre! I certainly would hesitate to recommend it to anyone, though with a good edit you could make a good short out of Greig’s storyline.

To have your heart-broken by Tamsin Greig in a better production watch the BBC’s 2009 miniseries The Diary of Anne Frank.

Tamara Drewe is out this Friday.