Mullan and Colman in a Paddy
"Tyrannosaur" was every bit as gritty as I expected despite being a directional debut from actor Paddy Considine, one of the finest British actors of his generation. But with its story of rage, anger, violence and abuse it is at times purposefully uncomfortable viewing, unsettling in the sheer ferocity of not only what we see but also hear. And if you think I am exaggerating in the opening scenes we see a man in a moment of rage kick and kill his dog, yes this movie does not hold back and that is just one of many moments which knock you back. But "Tyrannosaur" is not a movie about violence it is about two people, Joseph who is an a cycle of rage and the kindly Hannah who is in her own cycle of violence.
Joseph (Peter Mullan - On a Clear Day) knows he is no good; he struggles to control his rage and is prone to violent outbursts which are often followed by remorse for his actions. It is one of these outbursts which leads him to the charity shop run by Hannah (Olivia Colman - Confetti) a woman of faith who feels compassion for Joseph. But Hannah has her own issues of violence as her husband James (Eddie Marsan) abuses her leaving her with black eyes and much worse.
So I've already mentioned that in the opening 5 minutes we see Joseph kill his dog in a moment of uncontrollable rage, it is seriously shocking as is the scene which follows but we quickly learn about Joseph's cycle because the violence is followed by remorse. In a way you could say that Joseph is a classic character one which may be familiar to many people of someone who for what ever reason is prone to snapping and when they snap they get violent but immediately after they feel guilty. And what Considine gives us is a character study, a look at Joseph and his attempt to control himself with some moments where he doesn't but also moments when he is able to control his inner rage.
But we then get the other side of this through Hannah's story, the victim of an abusive husband who to everyone is a good guy but behind closed doors is a vile little man who sickingly mistreats Hannah. Every moment of abuse dished out by James is uncomfortable and it starts with as horrible scene as that of Joseph's as we see him urinate on the sleeping Hannah. But whilst we have this violence we have Hannah and how she deals with it, trying to cover up for what happens but scared stiff of upsetting James or giving him reason to jump to the wrong conclusion. In a scene where we see Hannah go to a bar because she is too scared to go home and she calls James pleading with him "Please don't hurt me anymore" it is so painfully real that you feel helpless watching.
Now the stories of Joseph and Hannah intertwine two damaged people who become unlikely friends. But whilst we see this friendship grow between them it is not some romantic subplot but more of two damaged people who find a strange sense of safety in each other and it adds a nice dramatic subplot for what is very much a character study surrounding abuse. It is to Considine's credit as this is not some weak experimental directional debut, his understanding brings this story, which he also wrote, to life and so whilst unsettlingly violent it is the study of a violent person and a victim of violence which remains the focus.
Now for a directional debut Considine has 3 great actors to work with and in my mind there is no one who could have played Joseph better than Peter Mullan. Mullan whilst delivering the anger, the venomous and spiteful dialogue has a face which can say 1000 words; a face etched with lines which speak of a life of hardship and combined with his raspy Scottish accent makes him authentic, working class. But Mullan is equalled by Olivia Colman as Hannah, fragile, vulnerable yet remarkably strong or at least on the outside, Colman makes Hannah such a recognizable character of an abused woman that it makes it unsettling. And then we have Eddie Marsan as James, a disgusting, foul little man who says all the right things but behind close doors is sickening in his constant physical, verbal and mental abuse. The things about this is that whilst Joseph and James are both abusive men you feel compassion for Joseph because you can sense his remorse is genuine, that he doesn't want to lose control whilst James is a coward who shows no remorse for what he does.
What this all boils down to is that "Tyrannosaur" is hard going and I have barely scratched the surface of how violent and unsettling it is. But this is not a movie about violence but about those who dish it out and those who are on the end of it and it becomes this very real character study, one definitely worth watching.