Tyrannosaur

19 Dec

Title: Tyrannosaur
Year: 2011
Director: Paddy Considine
Writer: Paddy Considine
Starring: Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman, Eddie Marsan, Paul Popplewell, Ned Dennehy, Sally Carman
MPAA Rating: Not rated
Runtime: 91 min
IMDb Rating: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Metacritic: 63

Tyronnosaur, I won’t lie, is a film that’s hard to sit through, it’s a brutal story, one that doesn’t ever sugarcoat things, but one that, based on the performance of Olivia Colman alone, is ultimately more than worth watching. This is a great film, and it’s not often that I watch two great films in a row (those that I grade in the A range), the last time I saw two in a row was when I watched Take Shelter (which I gave an A to) on October 30th and Tucker & Dale vs Evil (which I gave an A- to) the next day, but the fact that I’ve seen this film after having seen The Descendants (an A+ to me, and the second best film of the year so far) in the afternoon has me feeling really awesome about the state of films right now, that’s the magic of these final months of the year, great movies abound.

But, like I said, some won’t be able to sit through the beating that Tyrannosaur provides, because by the end you feel kind of exhausted, this is tough stuff to watch, but the thing is that the performances are just so fierce and gut-wrenching that they suck you right in and make the beating more than worth tolerating. Peter Mullan is the great actor in charge of providing such harsh moments, he’s an actor who can give us some really intense moments of sadness and loneliness in his past roles, and just as the film opens we see him being overcome by rage as he starts kicking his dog. It’s an incredibly challenging scene with which to open the film, and just seeing the face of Mr. Mullan as he does that, a man overcome by a hatred and rage is far more disturbing than if we watched the actual dog. Tyrannosaur, after establishing him as such a monster from the very get-go, will then ask you to try and care about him during the process of him trying to reclaim whatever humanity is left in him.

Mr. Mullan plays Joseph, the man that’s always angry, often drinking and usually exerting some sort of great violence, living alone after the death of his wife and spending the rest of his days sitting in pubs. The film thus tries to see him through a path of redemption, tries to see if there’s even a path of redemption for this man, acknowledging that, for that to happen in the first place, Joseph has to recognize how horrible a person he has become. We see him alternating between a huge amount of anger and reflecting upon it, maybe feeling sorry about himself, and on one of these fits of anger he beats the crap out of some young guys for no apparent reason. He enters a thrift store soon after that, a shop that’s ran by Olivia Colman’s character, Hannah, a born-again woman in her forties who upon seeing Joseph just asks him if he wants her to pray for him.

It’s the initial contrast between Joseph and Hannah that really strikes you, she’s spiritual, she’s good, she’s always smiling, offering to help, it’s as though he’s too hard for this world and she’s too soft. However, as the film starts developing the relationship that starts blossoming between the two, we see the parallels, as Hannah herself isn’t that happy, she’s married to a man that’s not what he seems to be, and much like Joseph, she enjoys a drink or two herself. This isn’t just a film that focusses on the miserable British working-class, though, just how much we get to know Joseph is much more than any other film with that character would show us. It’s a film that tries to humanize Joseph, a film that doesn’t paint him as just the villain, but that doesn’t let him off the hook either, it’s a film that looks down into his depths full of loneliness, a man who’s tormented by his own behavior that he can’t seem to leave behind.

Another great actor is Paddy Considine, who wrote and directed this film, and in his debut feature he shows the confidence of a veteran, he knows how much room to give his actors, and he knows how to keep such a dark mood but always providing the possibility of the tiniest bit of light at the end of the tunnel. And it helps that these are the actors he gets to work with, Peter Mullan gives a really bold, unrelenting performance and he never once messes it up, and then there’s Eddie Marsan as Hannah’s husband, a guy who seem soft and passive but who behind close doors is an abusive beast, taking out on his wife the threat that Joseph poses to his masculinity as he sees the two spending quite some time together. Like I said, Tyrannosaur is not the easiest film to get through, and keep in mind it’s only ninety minutes long.

This is a great film, and if it’s so amazing it’s because of the work Olivia Colman does in it. I mean, everyone’s splendid here, but she’s honestly stunning, the sadness of the whole film, it’s very essence, relies on how it shows the way that Hannah is living as just something she has built up herself in order to explain her miserable existence. Her performance makes Tyrannosaur an exemplary human drama, a compelling and visceral view at rage and abuse and the stuff that comes out of that. I’m not sure if Tyrannosaur is trying to say something, it’s just showing something, showing these wounded personalities and just how much they draw each other in.

Grade: A-

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