Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Tyrannosaur Only Fears Itself

To say watching Tyrannosaur was the equivalent of being punched in the stomach repeatedly would be an understatement. In fact being hit in the gut would probably have been more joyful. Despite being put through the emotional ringer, I would not hesitate for a second to recommend this film. There is an inherent beauty to the bleakness of the world in which the characters exist.

In a fit of blind rage, a widower, Jospeh (Peter Mullan) ends up accidently killing his dog. Determined to try and change his self-destructive ways, he strikes up a friendship with a thrift store worker, Hannah (Olivia Colman). As a woman of faith Hannah offers to pray for Joseph’s soul. Though strong in her faith, Hannah has problems of her own and they are even more destructive than Joseph could ever imagine.

Though the film will leave you feeling as battered emotionally as Hannah’s face in one jarring scene, Tyrannosaur is a film that is tough to turn away from. It is a bold and confident directorial debut from actor-turned-director Paddy Considine. At no point does Considine try to sugar coat the issues raised in the film nor does he seem particularly interested in providing any real statement. Considine merely offers up a realistic portrayal of the rage that can boil up from within when there are no more tears to be shed.

A perfect example of this comes when Hannah is trying to console her apologetic abusive husband after an incident. Despite being the victim, Hannah finds herself trying to sooth her crying husband and let him know that everything will be okay. However you can see that Hannah is seething inside. She struggles to conceal her disgust as she forces herself to spew soothing words that feel like bile to her.

Olivia Colman gives a star-making performance as Hannah. This is quite a feat considering she must hold her own against the likes of Peter Mullan and Eddie Marsan. Colman has a tough task being both the spiritual heart of the film and the personification of Joesph in a seemingly God-less world. It is not an easy job by any means, but Colman manages to pull it off with grace. As I mentioned before, Colman manages to hold her own against Mullan and Marsan who are in top form as usual. Marsan is especially strong as Hannah’s weasel of a husband, James. On the surface, James seems to be the most together of the three main characters. However, it is not long before it becomes apparent just how short his fuse is.

Mullan is electric as Joseph, a man who is so blinded by his rage that he inadvertently destroys the only thing that gave his life meaning in recent years. He longs to connect with people, but he is constantly caught within an internal struggle to hold on to the last bit of humanity he has left. This helps to bring a unique dynamic to the friendship between Joseph and Hannah. When one is on the upswing the other is on decline, rarely do they meet in the middle.

A startling and, at times, depressing film, Tyrannosaur is a film that will not leave you in the best of spirits. However you will be glad to have gone on such an emotionally jarring journey by time the final credits role. It is easily one of the best films of the year.


  1. Hear bloody hear. One of the films of the year indeed. Many seem to think so but it has been overlooked everywhere apart from the BAFTAs. Controversial subject matter, I suppose.

  2. I keep hearing how great this movie is but I don't recall ever seeing it in theaters. Did I just plain miss it, or what?

  3. @Colin – It seems British films were largely ignored on the award circuit this year. I think in Tyrannosaur’s case it was just too depressing of a film for some to champion. I also wonder if many of the award voters simply did not get around to seeing it.

    @Rich – It seems to just be playing in select markets at the moment. It only opened here in Toronto this past weekend, and is currently only playing in one theatre. Hopefully it expands wider, but chances are good it will make most of its money on DVD.


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