Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
Italy/United Kingdom/Greece/France/Netherlands/USA, 2015. Film4, Irish Film Board, Eurimages, Nederlands Fonds voor de Film, Greek Film Center, British Film Institute, Canal+, Centre National du Cinema et de L’Image Animee, Cine+, Element Pictures, Faliro House Productions, Haut et Court, Institut Francais, L’Aide aux Cinemas du Monde, Lemming Film, Limp Films, Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres et du Developpement International, Protagonist Pictures, Scarlet Films. Screenplay by Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou. Cinematography by Thimios Bakatakis. Produced by Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Yorgos Lanthimos, Lee Magiday. Production Design by Jacqueline Abrahams. Costume Design by Sarah Blenkinsop. Film Editing by Yorgos Mavropsaridis. Academy Awards 2016. Cannes Film Festival Awards 2015. Golden Globe Awards 2016. Toronto International Film Festival 2015. Washington Film Critics Awards 2016.
In a world where coupling up is the law by which all of society bases itself, Colin Farrell has checked into the hotel where single people are sent to have one last chance at finding a mate. If they don’t do so within a set number of days, they are transformed into the animal of their choice, but they are also given the opportunity to extend their stay by taking to the woods and hunting the rebellious loners who reject this fascism. Farrell does his best, even faking a relationship with the most heartless woman at the hotel, but eventually abandons the operation to take up with the single activists in the woods, their dedication almost as militant as his former authorities: where he was previously forced to slow dance with women and forbidden to masturbate, he is now under the command of Léa Seydoux and told he will be mutilated if he is caught flirting. This means trouble when Farrell meets beautiful Rachel Weisz and discovers that he is deeply in love with her, the two of them beginning a relationship that leads to devastating results. Director Yorgos Lanthimos has a great time poking fun at the importance that society places on romantic connection to the point of making people feel bullied by the message, revealing in this wickedly funny tale that all the happy couples who pretend at common interests and harmony are selfish liars, and that dedicated loners are equally deluded about their independence. The film threatens to crumble to sentimentality by the its conclusion but, don’t worry, Lanthimos believes only in the unpredictable nature of the human spirit and has plenty of jokes in store until the very last scene. Every aspect of the world he has created with co-writer Efthymis Filippou is worked out to great satisfaction, and the performances match the brittle humour with a level of wryness that is dry but never self-aware or jokey. Farrell is particularly magnificent in the lead.