In an alternate present or not-too-distant future it has become mandatory that people maintain committed, monogamous relationships. If they fail to secure a partner by a certain age, or if - for whatever reason - a relationship ends, they are sent to a coastal hotel and given 45 days to meet a new partner.

Pretty bizarre, right? Yorgos Lanthimos's film ups the peculiarity stakes with the forefeit for not finding a partner being that you are turned into an animal (of your choosing), hence, for David (Colin Farrell) his preference of the titular lobster.

Perhaps already parodying the kind of question one might be asked when signing up to an online dating website - "If you could be any animal, what animal would you be?" - the film is stuffed with enough ideas to prompt debate and discussion for days to come. However, don't be fooled, this isn't ideal date movie fodder.

Tonally, the film begins with a certain sense of detached whimsy, as if Michael Haneke and Wes Anderson had decided to collaborate, and there are laughs - sometimes uncomfortable ones - to be had as David discovers the workings of this hotel, with his brother Bob (who has been turned into a dog) in tow.

The hotel manager - an absolutely wonderful Olivia Colman - delivers the exposition with the air of a wearied head nurse at an asylum, but later bursts into song with her partner at the guest's Butlins-esque dance party.

David quickly befriends a lisping man (John C. Reilly) and a limping man (Ben Whishaw), the former hopes that perhaps he can find a lasting friendship if not a romance, and the latter, who's wife has only just passed away, becomes determined to get out as quickly as possible.

Ultimately, David attempts to manufacture a relationship with terrible results, and finds himself on the run, out in the woods, where the loner's reside. Loners are escapees, and if guests manage to snag one during the daily hunt they get an extra day added to their stay to help stave off transmogrification.

But the loners also represent another side of this society, equally as managed to be expectations and perceived roles, equally as punished for supposed indiscretions as the ones up in the hotel. Indeed, there are plenty of parallels to be drawn, and, on a field trip to the city where the happy couples live, there's even more to chew on about attitudes towards consumerism, and such like.

The film benefits from an exceptional cast, though occasionally fine performers such as Michael Smiley, and even, to some degree, Rachel Weisz as the short-sighted woman David eventually falls for out in the woods, can feel rather under-used. At the same time, the film is unbalanced, its earlier scenes set in the hotel have an anarchic sense of really prising the lid off of how we think about relationships, it has the darkly humourous inquisitive guile of a Jose Saramago novel adapted by Charlie Kaufman, and it's so full of promise at this point that when it starts to flounder its all the more frustrating.

It's almost as if the free-wheeling, giddy ideas that avalanched out as the film's concept was developed all rolled off in different directions, leaving the film dashing around trying to figure out which one to pursue, and ultimately left hem  unable to catch up and wrangle any of them into a coherent second half.

Broadly, the film appears to want to challenge how we imagine and experience relationships, with others and ourselves, and most importantly what values we place upon what is expected of us when it comes to love for another person. There is one scene of honest tenderness between David and the short-sighted woman that makes their ultimate misunderstanding of relationships all the more sickly hilarious and infuriating, but these points - and these grand exclamations - are lost in a film that loses its focus, and sours the goodwill it had from its daffy, but appealing, premise.