Less than 30 seconds in to this film it is made glaringly obvious is not for the faint at heart. Tyrannosaur opens with a disheveled man stumbling out of a bookies amidst some sort of liquor fueled umbrage. He tries to make his way home with his lagging dog in tow, fast becoming frustrated with the pooch’s hesitance and in a snap fit of rage, kills his dog. His regret is instantaneous as the realisation of his actions sets in. And so we are introduced to the bitter, ill-tempered and complex man that is Joseph, expertly and stoically played by Peter Mullan.
Again and again Joseph lets his temper get the better of him, each time he sinks ashamedly lower and lower into himself. As Joseph excels at alienating himself from the people around him it becomes increasingly apparent that apart from a smattering of locals and a fresh-faced young boy named Sam who lives in his street, Bluey, his dog, was his best and only mate. After an incident involving Joseph and some local youths, he runs to a local thrift shop and hides himself behind a rack of coats, much to the dismay of the shop attendant, Hannah, played by Olivia Colman. Hannah, in her infinite Christian kindness tries to coax Joseph out from his hiding place and despite some resistance from Joe she persists and eventually decides she will pray for him. Joe seems immediately touched by her kindness, however in some sort of knee-jerk reaction he proceeds to barbarically and very personally tear shreds off of her. Though Hannah is very clearly affected by this she seems to remain quite strong, at which point some light is shed on her resilience when it becomes apparent that her home life is equally abusive.
Right now you might be thinking I’ve said too much. You wanted a review not a synopsis. Well, did I mention that at this point we’re barely twenty minutes into the movie? This is a mere peak at the tip of the iceberg of intensity that looms below the surface. As Tyrannosaur progresses the differences in Joseph and Hannah’s lives become increasingly arbitrary and the similarities more and more visible. As the film continues their relationship evolves despite a series of events and consistent mutual resistance, only to come to a halt almost as suddenly as it began.
The final act is an absolute blitzkrieg of loose end tying. Every character, every relationship, every dangling thread of plot line is quickly matted together into and ending that seemed rushed and haphazard, but also thoroughly fulfilling. In bringing everything together so apparently hurriedly it forces the viewer to empathise with the characters and the chaotic and erratic nature of their relationship.
A massive selling point of Tyrannosaur is the cast. Peter Mullan is hard, brash and tough to the core as Joseph. That been said, this role is right in his wheelhouse so perhaps anything less would have been a let down. Olivia Colman on the other hand, who’s acting credits prior to Tyrannosaur include The Office and Peep Show, seemingly took a massive step out of her comfort zone for this role. Colman’s performance is courageously honest and at times agonizingly real. She expertly portrays the lament and distress that Hannah experiences as her life begins to spiral downward. It is a massive step from her role as the double entendre spouting ladette police officer from Hot Fuzz, where she starred along side two smarmy moustache toting detectives, one of which was played by Paddy Considine who makes his feature film directorial debut on Tyrannosaur. (How good was that segue, eh?)
The fact that this is Considine’s first venture into directing is far from obvious. Tyrannosaur is quiet, close and most of all it is bleak. All of which builds tension and discomfort and does incredibly well to make the separation of the viewer from the characters almost obsolete. Though I think some viewers may take issue with the suddenness of the film’s closure, I feel this furthered the immersion of the viewer in the chaos that was these people’s story.
Though the main theme of Tyrannosaur is the building of a relationship between two people I think it would be ridiculous to call it a love story. It’s not so much love as a mutual bouncing from rock bottom to rock bottom that draws Joseph and Hannah together until they are almost co-dependent on each other’s misery. It truly is a brilliant film that will evoke all sorts of emotion from any person who gives it the time. A visceral and involving film that is as real and absolute as it gets.