When Dylan lived at home I would prioritise the cinema over all other options on the rare occasions that I got a night off. I reflected on the importance of these cinema trips in this post, written during a period when caring for Dylan was particularly hard. It’s strange how, with hindsight, a difficult period in life can feel romantic, even charmed; strange at it is, however, I have filed my memories of those early evening visits to the cinema in a place which, in a certain slant of light, I can find myself hankering for.
Although I can go to the cinema every evening now if I wish, I have hardly visited since Dylan moved to residential care. I’m not sure why this is but assume it’s because I have a choice now. Perhaps it’s also because I no longer feel the imperative to make the most of an evening off by going out instead of going home.
Tonight, however, I made it to the cinema. My friend and I went to see The Lobster, attracted by a storyline which involves single people being obliged to check into a hotel and find a romantic partner within 45 days. Being a ‘loner’ is not acceptable in this dystopian future; couple relationships are the basis of society and children are only allocated in order to support needy couple relationships. As well as being an anti-singleton narrative, The Lobster depicts ‘difference’ as threatening and undesirable; as the hotel manager uses ‘similarity’ as the criterion for approving the coupling of guests, the best way for a loner to find a partner is to take on the attributes of one of the other guests.
We see one guest, for example, beat his head in order to trigger nose bleeds in the hope of being paired with a hotel guest plagued by recurrent nose bleeds. The main character, meanwhile, takes on the features of two women with whom he couples; at the start of the film he cultivates lack of emotion (in order to be matched with a woman portrayed as heartless) and at the end of the film, in order to share a woman’s blindness, he takes a steak knife to his eyes. This process of matching is curious; on the one hand it involves the elimination of individual difference but it also embraces disability (in addition to the woman with short-sightedness there is a character with a lisp and one with a limp).
As well as these references to disability and difference triggering thoughts of Dylan, the monotone voices of the characters, and their a-social conversations, could be considered ‘autistic’ (in the sense used by Piaget). I found myself considering tonight, perhaps for the first time, that as an autistic loner Dylan will probably spend his life alone, at least in terms of romantic coupling. Although part of me was saddened at this thought, a stronger and more powerful part of me felt a perfectly comfortable connection to him.
The characters in the film who fail to find a partner within 45 days are transformed into a beast of their choice. The main character opts for a lobster because, he tells the hotel manager, he like the sea and the fact that lobsters live for a long time. It is, the manager tells him, a good choice. I think that Dylan and I would probably agree.
The Lobster is directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and was released in 2015.