David (Farrell) is taken to a hotel after his wife left him for another man. He has 45 days to find a partner out of the whack jobs that’s are also single and in the hotel or he will be turned in to a lobster (his chosen animal). The dog that accompanies him is his brother, who has already been changed after unsuccessfully finding a mate. David makes friends with Robert (Reilly) a man with a lisp, and John (Whishaw) a man with a limp. John explains that he got the limp after n accident involving his mother who had been turned in to a wolf.
The hotel has a list of rules and rituals as long as your arm, which include no masterbation…Robert is caught masterbating on an occasion and the owners bring a toaster to his breakfast table and toast poor old madam palm and her 5 daughters. Sexual stimulation by the maids is mandatory and everyone in the hotel must attend dance socials, and weird live propaganda performances, showing how being in a partnership is much better than being on your own.
For people to find a match, they must, according to the rules, have a distinguishing trait in common. When a women with a limp arrives John is told, but he determines that her limp if from an injury and will heal…uh oh no match there.
Residents of the hotel can extend their time to find a match by tranquilising the “loners” who live in the surrounding forest. Loners are single people who the hotel have been unable to catch to bring in to find a mate and a formed group of militants activists. On one hunt, David is offered sexual favours from a women who is really fond of biscuits. She tells him that if she doesn’t find a mater she will kill herself by jumping out of a window.
John manages to win the affections of a girl who suffers from nose bleeds a lot…and he forces a common trait by secretly bashing his nose so that he too gets nose bleeds. They are moved to the couples section of the hotel to start a trial of their relationship.
David, finds a women who is completely heartless and decides to start “dating” her. Their first conversation is punctuated by the screams of the women who liked to eat biscuits as she has jumped from the widow but failed to kill herself. Neither show any compassion for the women, and David is putting on his ambivalence to the scene to force the relationship with the heartless women. Later David joins the women in a jacuzzi and when she feigns choking and he does nothing to help, she decides they are a match.
The pair are shifted to the couples area, and you witness them having cold, joyless sex. They run in to John and his partner who have now incorporated a child in to their relationship, and when she asks for a kiss from David he just kicks the kind.
David wakes up one morning to find the women has kicked his brother (the dog) to death and when David cries she drags his off to the hotel manager to get him transformed in to an animal no one likes, but he manages to escape and runs off. A maid helps him and he later tranquillises the women and turns her in to an animal, although you never find out what.
David escapes the hotel and joins the loners. They do not allow any romantic relationships and that is punishable by having thier mouths mutilated with razor blades.
The loners launch a mini raid on the hotel and David tells the nose bleed women that John has been faking nose bleeds. The loners hold the hotel manager and his wife at gun point forcing the husband to chose shorting himself or his wife. He chooses to shoot his wife, but on firing the gun finds it’s not loaded leaving the couple to face each other.
David starts a secret relationship with a short sighted women and they developed hand signals to live out thier relationship so that the leader of the loners doesn’t find out…but the leader finds the short sighted women’s diary (Note to self don’t keep a diary if I am ever living in a woods with a bunch of militant singletons) and the leader takes the women to the city to get laser eye surgery on the premise that she is trying to help her, but she actually has her blinded. In anger the women kills the hotel maid thinking she is the leader.
She tells David about her blindness, and they desperately try and find something else in common, but they are unable to. Prior to the women being blinded she and David had developed a plan to escape and they decide to continue with the plan despite the current lack of common ground as they decide they will figure out how to love each with nothing in common. The next day, David over powers the leader and ties her to a tree leaving her to be eaten by dogs. The couple run off to the city and stop off in a restaurant. David leaves the women at the table as he visits the bathroom. The film ends with David about to blind himself with a knife as the women waits for him at the table.
Got all that? It’s a bizarre and warped commentary on the social behaviours and pressures of society and how social convention says we should be in a relationship of a certain standard.
You need a really, really dry sense of humour to see the funny side of this film with it monotone voice over a drab characterisations. There is really very little made of the fantasy side of people being turned in to animals and more focuses on the odd ritual of finding someone who has the same common traits as you. Even when David breaks free he falls for a women who is short sighted… just like he is, so I got a bit lost as it seemed that they were supposed to find love despite thier common traits, but when she’s blinded the relationship sours a little.
This is filmed like a hum drum British drama, and requires a very open mind to see Yorgos Lanthimos’ vision.
There is a form of social commentary that the militants have worse rules than the hotel, making a poignant statement about the government and the splinter groups which actively fight against government policies.
All in all, this film feels long. It’s hard to take to any of the characters and it’s tough watching. The humour is sparse and the premises of people being changed to animals is fairly non existent.
Watch it if you want a trip in to a drab yet bizarre film which seems to treat animal and human cruelty with the same ointment.