Roger Michell’s adaptation of the Daphne du Maurier novel My Cousin Rachel peddles in interesting camera work, astonishing visuals, and solid performances, but lacks a thorough command of tone. The film feels obsessed with the ambiguity of its central romantic mystery, while at the same time laying on the cinematic clues with an unbelievably heavy hand. There’s fascinating technique in the expression of the mystery and the characters involved in it, but the execution misses often enough to infuse the film with an uneven mood. This makes it hard to understand when to take the ambiguity seriously and when to embrace the apparent obviousness of it all.
The very best satire establishes absurdity as commonplace, and Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ first English-language feature film The Lobster is a fascinating example. Winner of the Jury Prize at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, this dark romantic comedy imagines a dystopia where single people are sent to a hotel and given 45 days to find a new partner. Should they fail, they are transformed into an animal of their choosing and released into the wild. Some attendees don’t wait that long, and escape into the bordering forest to live in a kind of fugitive singleness. The Lobster viciously jests through this dichotomy, exploring the nature of relationships and how societal pressures can paradoxically be the cause of both settling and celibacy.