Film review: Tyrannosaur

TyrannosaurTyrannosaur sets its stall out early. Within minutes, a dog has been kicked to death, and that tone carries on throughout pretty much the rest of the film. Make no mistake, Tyrannosaur is not a film to watch if you want some lighthearted entertainment; you will be appalled, shocked, angered, and saddened. This may not be the best advert, but it’s a film that should be watched as a lesson in humanity, tolerance and compassion.

Joseph (Peter Mullen) is a rage-filled down-and-out; he drinks, gambles, has no job, antagonises and abuses any and all who cross his path – all in all a pretty destructive character, both physically and mentally.  When he meets religious charity shop worker, Hannah (Olivia Coleman), he isn’t used to the level of understanding, patience and kindness that she shows him and proceeds to abuse her as he does everyone else. But Joseph keeps finding his way back to Hannah and slowly starts to let her change his life. However, Hannah has some dark secrets of her own, namely her abusive and sadistic husband James (Eddie Marsan), and she ends up needing Joseph just as much as he needs her.

The story, and Joseph’s in particular, is reasonably formulaic for the most part, although there are still plenty of shocks and surprises throughout that will raise eyebrows. Most of the character’s journeys are affecting, from Joseph’s to Hannah’s to Samuel’s, a young boy who’s one of the few to treat Joseph like a real human being, and you genuinely want them to find the happiness they strive for.

As mentioned in the first paragraph, Tyrannosaur is not an easy watch (the happiest scene in the film is a wake) and, at times, it can be a little too brutal. As is the speciality of British cinema, reality is clearly the order of the day, but Tyrannosaur is sometimes so bleak that it can actually detract from the reality of it all. Surely so many people’s lives couldn’t be that dysfunctional? Or maybe they could and that’s the really shocking thing.

Much of the acclaim for this film has focused on Olivia Coleman’s performance, and, quite simply, it deserves every accolade it gets. She delivers a performance so compelling, so gut-wrenching that it truly makes you glad you’re only watching a film; even the thought of anyone going through the ordeals she does is nothing short of frightening. Coleman’s portrayal of a woman pushed to her absolute limits is masterful, although her story threatens to completely overshadow that of Joseph’s. Or rather it would have done if Mullen had not delivered an equally impressive performance, his Joseph delicately straddling the line between psychopath and misunderstood. Like Michael Fassbender’s performance in Shame, it’s an absolute travesty that neither Coleman nor Mullen got an Oscar nod, especially considering the number of other awards the film and the actors have picked up.

Despite the film’s rather dark outlook, there is still plenty to cheer. Watching the the relationship between Joseph and Hannah develop is mesmerising as you never quite now if Joseph will slip back into old habits despite Hannah’s seemingly unwavering belief that he’s a good person at heart.

Tyrannosaur is a film that makes an impression, and if this is Considine’s first feature as a director, then any future forays behind the camera should generate a fair deal of attention.

Words: Chris Thomson

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9 thoughts on “Film review: Tyrannosaur

  1. Mark Walker says:

    Great review man. I absolutely loved this loved this and share your disappointment in the Oscars snubbing this and Shame. As it turns out, I walked right by Peter Mullan yesterday.

  2. Thanks very much, appreciate it!

    Rubbing shoulders with the stars! Although i’m sure he’s a lovely bloke in real life, but just based on Tyrannosaur i would likely have crossed the street for fear of my safety. But yeah, it’s a great film and those two performances are superb. Yet more proof that The Academy are totally blinkered in their nominations.

    • Mark Walker says:

      I actually chatted to Mullan years ago and bump into him regularly. He comes from the same side of the city as me and despite I’m consistently being involved in big film’s (recently Spelberg’s War Horse) he’s decided to keep grounded about it all and remain in his hometown. I respect that. Robert Carlyle is the same. A very humble guy decide the lunatics he plays onscreen.

      • Yeah you gotta respect that. Some could do to learn a few things from people like him. It probably goes to show how he can give such grounded performances too, hasn’t let himself get inflated by the pomp of Hollywood etc. I imagine he’s quite a fascinating person to talk to.

      • Mark Walker says:

        Absolutely, there’s an integrity to that. The chat I had was brief and personally I didn’t like his stance on some political issues in Scotland but that’s another story. I’m more friendly with his producer on his earlier directing film’s Orphans ad The Magdelene Sisters. I don’t proclaim to know him but the city of Glasgow is a small place and most of it’s actors tend to remain there. My daughter went to school with Robert Carlyle, he’s an absolute gentleman. By the way, if you haven’t seen Mullan’s directorial movies you should have a look they are quite good. Orphans, The Magdelene Sisters and NEDS. The Magdelene sisters is especially good.

      • I haven’t seen any of those, but i will be sure to check them out when i have the chance. I’ve heard good things about The Magdelene Sisters before, so i’m looking forward to seeing that.

        Sounds like there’s a pretty good film scene up in Glasgow and that people stay true to their roots. I live in Chester and our most famous son is Russ Abbott…

      • Mark Walker says:

        Aaah! The might Russ! Lol
        Yeah, the Glasgow film industry used to be quite good but I think their funding has been cut recently. Here’s a couple of reviews of The magdalene sisters http://mrmarakai.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/the-magdalene-sisters/ and NEDS http://mrmarakai.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/neds-12/
        In hindsight I might have been a little unfair on NEDS but still worth a look.

  3. I’m planning on watching this on Friday. Great review!

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