The opening of Tyrannosaur sets the tone. An age hardened, rage infuriated man kicks his dog. He immediately stops after his dog has fallen. The animal is looking at him with an expression of sadness and confusion. The dog dies shortly thereafter, and the man buries him with a profound sadness and fragility. Throughout the rest of the film, I kept thinking of that dog and if his cruel death was some sort of mercy on the part of the owner.
The man’s name is Joseph, played by Peter Mullan. Any audience member with a heart can see that there is a good person in Joseph, but he has beaten that goodness to a pulp and buried it with his dog. He is diving head first into self-destruction, and he lashes out violently to make himself believe he is scum.
After he attacks a punk in a pub, he runs off and hides in a women’s clothing store. He sits down and looks close to exploding. An employee sees him and asks if he wants a prayer. He grumbles a curse not so much directed at her but the concept of god helping him. Her name is Hannah (Olivia Colman), and she has genuine sympathy for Joseph the same way you sympathize for the dangerous gorilla with one eye.
Joseph leaves after some harsh words directed at Hannah, her religion, and her inability to produce children. When at home, Joseph has to bare witness to his brutal neighbor abusing a cute kid that barks out questions about Joseph’s dog.
When Hannah goes home, she has to put up with her sadistic husband James (Eddie Marsan). Hannah’s only retreat from this hell is alcohol, and when she passes out on the couch James relieves himself on her.
Hannah eventually fires back at James and tells him what a small, ugly, pathetic person he is. James beats and rapes her after losing face. Marsan is not a villain in this film, but a weak man I suspect was once kind. Joseph sees the damage done and takes Hannah into his home. No romance comes from this, Joseph only wants to protect Hannah. He has such a perfect stature and face for this role.
I had a teacher some two years ago who took her children away from her husband. She was damaged, and had strong faith in God. She cared about her two daughters, but there was always a very noticeable loneliness and sadness in her eyes. Part of her missed her husband, or who he used to be.
Colman is incredible. Her character needs some sort of hope to hold on to, but when we find out what she is really running from we must accept she is hopeless. What changes Joseph by the end of this film isn’t Hannah telling him to find God, but when he sees her trembling into an abyss of realization.
The director, Paddy Considine (feature film debut), does a great job of making this environment as ruthless as possible. When Joseph and Hannah aren’t hurting themselves, they are being hurt by the environment. It’s places like this small English town that produce the most disgusting forms of human nature (and cliched drunk yahoos).
My biggest issue of the film is the Stepdad that manhandles the young boy. His dialogue is, well, terrible. We have all met him (shirt off, fat flapping around, lets his dog bark like a damn manic) but the script does him no justice but make him a villain.
Still, Tyrannosaur never reaches a point of eye-rolling. There are places and people like this, and as much as it may hurt to look at them and watch a film centered on them, I think we all gotta have a look at one point.
There were some remarkable directorial debuts in 2011. Those including Evan Glodell (Bellflower), Joe Cornish (Attack the Block), JC Chandor (Margin Call), Michael McDonagh (The Guard, and if Michael teams up with his brother we have ourselves the new Coen Brothers), Simon Curtiz (My Week With Marilyn), David Mitchell (Myth of the American Sleepover), and Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene). Paddy Considine has to be my favorite debut in some time. He is some miracle cross between Andrea Arnold and Mike Leigh and shows just as much (if not more) skill. Tyrannosaur is an emotional sledgehammer to the gut, and it must be seen.
my rating: A