Greek writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos has for a while now been one of the darlings of the indie movie circuit, with his 2009 film Dogtooth earning particular praise. It’s interesting then to see him tip into the mainstream with this breakout English-language debut, which was warmly received at the Cannes Film Festival (winning the “bronze medal” Jury Prize) and features several high-profile and recognisable Hollywood actors. It’s essentially a surrealist dystopian satire about the nature of modern relationships and the pressure to find romantic partners, and it admirably resists the temptation to revert to more traditional storytelling conventions to match its higher budget and wider audience.

Its moments of dark comedy work brilliantly, given that it has a constantly unsettling atmosphere of well-known actors performing in what seems at times like an avant-garde art piece. It’s also replete with strong visual choices, from its bland and beige colour palette to some delicately-chosen compositions that keep things aesthetically interesting even as its content sometimes confuses. Its lack of clarity often works against it; there seems to be a critique going on somewhere within it of modern society’s obsession with coupling up as the key to happiness and the brutal judgment that the likes of Tinder and online dating encourage, but these themes are either frustratingly unexplored to any depth or presented in a muddled manner, particularly in its third act. None of this entirely detracts however, from what is an impressively original and idiosyncratic comedy that will leave a lot of Colin Farrell fans scratching their heads.

A mostly sharp satire on the nature of modern relationships and society's expectations of them8
Its moments of surreal and absurdist humour9
Its use of colour, composition and visual movement8
Figuring out what exactly it's trying to say5
Running out of ideas and narrative drive in its final act5
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The named female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test Failures
  • n/a
7Overall Score

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