If you’re casting about for a movie to watch this Valentine’s Day, save your money, time and sanity and forget about Fifty Shades Darker. Get on Netflix and watch The Lobster instead. I know, it’s been out for a few months and I’m tardy to the Netflix viewing party, but better late than never, I always say. Featuring Colin Farrell, who channels Christian Bale’s paunch from American Hustle, it’s the ultimate Valentine Movie, suitable for viewing each time that silly naked angel with a bow and arrow makes its inevitable appearance and tries to make all of us feel inadequate at love and romance.
Why anyone would choose to leave someone who looks like Colin Farrell – even a near-sighted, sad-sack, porn-stached Colin Farrell – is beyond me, but this is exactly what happens. He soon finds himself in a hotel with 45 days to get boo’d up, otherwise he’ll live out the rest of his days in the sea. The Lobster is billed as a comedy, which is restrictive and fails to give one the whole spectrum of what it’s really about. The humour is there, but it’s humour of the very black, twisted, sad kind. Nowhere is this more glaringly obvious than in the frantic forest hunt where everyone tries to capture a loner to enable them to extend their stay at the hotel in the hopes of buying them a little more time to find that elusive perfect match.
In the Philippines, we use the term “firing squad.” If you have no one on Valentine’s Day, you may as well be taken out to the back and shot. Which is the fate of all the loners in this movie – the ones who don’t willingly submit to what happens if they fail to couple up by the deadline end up being hunted, by the very ones who are about to take their place. It’s a scene rendered in excruciating slow-motion, an allegory for frantically swiping right.
The Lobster exists in a “dystopian” society where people who aren’t paired up are considered animals. I use quotation marks, because it isn’t dystopian at all. This is what real life can sometimes be like. The propaganda is everywhere. No man is an island. Two are better than one. Three’s a crowd. Strength in numbers. Even Ricky Martin says nobody wants to be lonely.
The movie is a scathing indictment of something most of us are aware of and struggle against, but end up tolerating anyway: we will always and forever be partially defined by whether or not we are one half of a significant whole, because society thinks there’s something inherently wrong with single people. To most, single people are like empty subway cars: full of exciting, limitless potential until the doors open and we realize there’s poop. Or vomit. Or a malodorous hobo sleeping on the floor. While this myopic view is thankfully changing, it’s still glaringly prevalent. We sentence single ladies past a certain age to a life of knitting and cats, or aging bachelors to waning years left balding and alone in an apartment that smells like feet. It’s the reason well-meaning people ask if you’re in a relationship. Saying no too often to this question marks one as odd. Never mind that solitariness can, is and should be a choice. We don’t always have to be with someone, but people will always wonder why.