Tyrannosaur is the tale of Joseph (Peter Mullan), a man filled with guilt, rage and alcohol and his relationship with Hannah (Olivia Colman). The two meet when Joseph seeks shelter in Hannah’s shop, and although there may not be obvious similarities between the violent Joseph and the devout, gentle Hannah, the two soon discover that they have more in common than they first thought.
First things first, if you go into Tyrannosaur hoping for a low budget Jurassic Park, you are going to be sorely disappointed. The Tyrannosaur of the title, is explained a Joseph’s obese late wife, but the poster gives a better clue; the tyrannosaur is the secret we all keep hidden under the surface.
From the opening moments of the film – where Joseph kicks his canine companion to death in a violent rage – the audience tries not to like him, but this is the thing; it is hard not to sympathise with this character, due to the many layered and fantastic performance from Peter Mullan. This is a man whose inner gentleness has been hidden for fear of appearing weak, and it is in the moments that he talks about his wife, takes pity on Hannah or demolishes his shed over grief for his dog that this tenderness shows through. Hannah goes through a similar emotional journey, but at first it appears to be in the opposite direction. Hannah is used as a physical and verbal punchbag by her abusive husband, so when she finally snaps – realising that alcohol and religion will not save her – it is heartbreaking to watch. Colman does not allow for melodrama in her performance, this feels real, and these authentic performances are the strength of the film.
First time director Paddy Considine creates an oppressive film, utilising the worst of Leeds and Glasgow, but at the same time, manages to explore the human condition with visual lyricism and foster empathy in the audience for these characters; trapped as they are.
Tyrannosaur is not an easy film to watch, but it is superbly written and directed, and allows for outstanding performances from Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman as damaged people who still need each other. It is not as depressing as it sounds, however, because at it’s core, the film looks at the strength of the human spirit to get back up and try again.