TYRANNOSAUR directed by Paddy Considine (UK, 2011)
Hannah – “I feel safe with you” Joseph – ” I am not a nice human being. Nobody is safe with me”.
That Peter Mullan is so convincing as a raging drunk in this movie is no great surprise, particularly as it is a kind of reprise of his leading role in Ken Loach’s My Name Is Joe – even his name is practically the same.
If this were simply another story of one man’s infinite capacity for violence and self-destructive behaviour it would struggle to hold the attention for the whole movie.
It is the role of Hannah, played superbly by Olivia Colman that makes this movie so memorable. On the surface she is a happily married middle-class woman living in a detached executive home and working in a Christian charity shop to ‘do her bit’ for society. Joseph brands her as a cake baking do-gooder who knows nothing of the real world. Ironically, she knows as much, if not more, of living with cruelty, with the crucial difference being that she experiences this as a victim rather than as a perpetrator.
Her abusive husband James (Eddie Marsan) is even scarier than Joseph because his aggression is more insidiously vindictive and less predictable. His psychosis is not fuelled by drink but by something more deep-rooted and sinister. Our introduction to him is when he returns home late to find Hannah sleeping on the couch and promptly urinates over her. We learn something of the back story of Joseph but are left to speculate precisely how and why Hannah and James’ marriage disintegrated so catastrophically.
Hannah’s passivity and forbearance of such abuse is founded in her belief that whatever happens to her is all part of God’s great scheme of things. She sees Joseph’s appearance in the charity shop in a similar light. When he seeks shelter there like a wounded animal, she regards him as a sinner to be saved. She soon learns that Joseph is beyond salvation and that talking religion to him is about as calming as holding a red rag to a wild bull : Hannah – “I prayed for you last night” ; Joseph – “Well, it didn’t fucking work”
Her merciful efforts flounder as do her valiant efforts to put on a brave face on her domestic plight. Eventually this become impossible when her face is a mass of cuts and bruises. Turning to Joseph for help may look like a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire but it does lead to some hint of redemption for both of them.
This gripping and savage film is all the more remarkable as it is the debut of actor turned writer/director Paddy Considine. It is an extended version of his 16 minute film Dog Altogether which won several awards for best short film including a BAFTA and the Silver Lion at Venice. Considine names Gary Oldman’s Nil By Mouth as “hugely influential” and Tyrannosaur shares the raw brutality of that film.
It offers little in the way of comfort, but was made out a need for catharsis – Mullan’s character was, apparently based in part of Considine’s late father. Getting all the shit, the hurt and resentment out in the open is a way of coming to terms with it.
It is appropriate that one of the musical accompaniments to this bleakly authentic tale of woe is Damien Dempsey‘s Sing All Our Cares Away which is a song about desperate lives similarly consumed by rage and ravaged by drink. Despite it all Dempsy’s message carries a glimmer of hope: “We grow strong from it all” and that is as much as your can wish for from the wreckage of lives like those of Joseph and Hannah.