Tyrannosaur

5 Aug

Director: Paddy Considine (2011)
Enjoyable watching and enjoyable films are not always necessarily synonymous.

Sometimes there are films that are so affecting and provocative that it would be impossible to say otherwise. Tyrannosaur is one of those films.

Challenging, uncomfortable and completely heartbreaking, Paddy Considine’s first feature film is a perfect exercise in demonstrating that even in the ugliest faces of life, beauty can shine through.

Joseph (Peter Mullan) is your typical grizzled alcoholic, day time drinking and beating on rowdy youths in dingy working men’s pubs. Led by violence, Joseph is the kind of man you don’t make eye contact with, that you cross the road to avoid – but he is also the kind of man that we all seem to forget may have a reason behind his actions. Or at least that’s what those of us who try to find the good in people might hope for. At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking Tyrannosaur is not so much about the good in people but amidst the grit and the violence, Considine somehow manages to turn it around and shine a light through.

Hannah (Olivia Coleman) is a kind hearted, Christian charity shop worker – but religion has not been able to save her from her own suffocating secret. In a simply superb performance, Coleman portrays a woman, seemingly strengthened by her first love of the Lord, but destroyed by the man she married. Enter James, the terrifyingly typecast and king of heart-stopping drama, Eddie Marsan. Brutal and unashamed, James rules over Hannah with a literal iron fist, beating her into submission behind the false facade of their suburban home.

What happens behind the scenes, the secrets we all have, is an overriding theme in Tyrannosaur. It’s just some of us are better at keeping our skeletons hidden. Through the juxtaposition of these two seemingly opposite characters, middle class Hannah and salt of the earth Joseph, the film juxtaposes the lives of those who live amongst corrugated iron and prefab brown brick council flats occupied by reprobates and their dogs and those in middle class estates with drives and landscaped front gardens. But appearances can be deceiving, something both the audience and the characters learn.

The unlikely relationship that develops between Joseph and Hannah is at once surprising and admirable. Considine’s expert writing and characterisation makes it impossible to look away as the two characters move through their trajectories, making us love then question that same judgement within a single move and motive. It is an exhausting film. By the time the camera fades in the final scene, we are left questioning our own perceptions of people, of what we see as the ‘good’ in people and humanity, but similarly we are left with an understanding that even in the darkest, airless realms of humanity, good can be found if you care to look for it. Stunning, paralysing but wholly necessary viewing.

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