Week off (Monday): The Lobster
As the lights went down I thought I'd finally cracked it, the holy grail of cinematographic experience. A whole screen to myself at a Central London cinema - with mega-sized video, surround sound and room to sprawl. After sitting all the way through twenty adverts, each individually targeted (none for cars, one for Lidl), and flew solo through my very own James Bond trailer (riverside car chase, tick, snowy aerial chase, tick) I believed the privacy prize was truly mine. But twenty minutes into the advertised programme he arrived, during a plug for midweek simulcast Shakespeare, then plonked himself down in the comfy seat almost, but not quite, immediately ahead of mine. My bubble burst, I was unable to concentrate on the final preview montage, particularly when he whipped out a thick meaty sandwich and sucked down on a plastic drinks bottle. One day I'll get the chance to be alone, I thought, neatly addressing the subtext of the film I'd come to see.
The Lobster is a leftfieldarthouseflick, a UK/Irish/Greek/French/Dutch production, set in a surreal universe only semi-parallel to our own. Here Coupledom is the norm, so singletons are whisked off to a hotel to pair up or face the consequences. Should Cupid fail, then after 45 days each guest is turned into the animal of their choice, with extra days earned for shooting escapees in The Woods. This absurdist fantasy is not your normal mainstream schlock. But some big names appear, including Ben Whishaw (who'll be turning up in Spectre next week) and Olivia Colman as the hotel's impassive manageress. Colin Farrell plays a jilted husband keen to regain his status, eventually fleeing the creepy institutional regime only to find that the libertarian single life is almost as unbearable. The cast of actors play it deadpan, to comic effect, and the gore count is sometimes unexpectedly high. I enjoyed the hotel scenes the most, with the forest environment less coherently convincing, while the central concept of animal transformation was wilfully underexplored. But the underlying themes of partnership and belonging resonated deep, and would have done more had I been a Loner throughout.