Tyrannosaur (2011) Review

Releasing on April 3rd on DVD and Blu is Tyrannosaur, the debut feature from outstanding Irish actor Paddy Considine (In America, Dead Man’s Shoes.) In Tyrannosaur, we follow Joseph, a ticking time bomb of anger and rage, played with terrifying subtlety by Peter Mullan. He spends his days wandering aimlessly and drinking heavily, waiting to run into the unfortunate person who will set him off. By chance, he stumbles into a Christian charity shop run by Hannah (Olivia Colman). She appears kind, affectionate, and warm-hearted; everything Joseph is not. She believes that the Lord can come into even the cruelest of hearts and change them for the good. Joseph believes otherwise, and isn’t afraid to let her know.

We soon learn that while Joseph and Hannah appear to be polar opposites, their lives may not be as different as they’d like to believe. Hannah is in an abusive relationship with her husband James (Eddie Marsan), who is the poster boy for domestic violence. A man who enjoys inflicting pain on a weaker individual, then brings out the waterworks to signal his coming change into a better man. You know the type. As dysfunctional as he may be, Joseph’s protective instincts come out, but whether he’s doing it out of boredom or selfishness is up to the viewer to decide. So begins a bizarre courtship between the two, where they reveal secrets and parts of their lives that can only be shared in the comfort that comes with talking to a stranger. They are both damaged souls, connected only by their misery and depression.

Although at first glance the main theme may appear to be domestic violence, I saw it more as an exploration of how far you can push even the weakest person before they have enough, and finally take matters into their own hands. Without believable performances, this would be glorified masochism, but the acting is so magnificent, I never once believed this was a film rooted in a fantasy world. The journey Olivia Colman took me on with Hannah was Oscar worthy. I find it hard to believe no one scored a nomination of any kind, but all we’re all aware of their glaring oversights every year.

The film is beautifully lit and directed. There is not much to smile about in the bleak and colorless working class Leeds, a city that seems to imprison and inspire the kind of despair that blankets the characters. Even the happy moments are brought to swift and abrupt conclusions, which only serves to validate the feelings of hopelessness. There is no judgment from Considine, only a portrait of people desperately searching for reprieve.

While it isn’t all doom and gloom, Considine never lets us off the hook, and Tyrannosaur is uplifting in the way that Requiem for a Dream is auspicious. Which is to say, not at all. This is a gritty, violent meditation on abuse and how much we can take. If there’s a message, it isn’t a hopeful one, but it’s a cathartic experience for those who needed a sobering look at life, or hope that even under the worst conditions, we can survive and come out on the other end to start a new life.

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