Tyrannosaur Review

The hardest part of holding on is the letting go.

For Joseph, the embattled protagonist in Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur, that’s easier said than done.

Played by casual thespian Peter Mullan, Joseph is a tormented man who’s plagued by his past and fearful of the future. He can’t seem to let go of the fossils that remind him of his former life, instead choosing to co-exist with all his bitter sweet memories; afraid to let go but aware he’s barely hanging on anyway.

His existence revolves around two things, alcohol and violence. These are the only outlets that allow him to channel his frustration and despair of what’s became of his life; despair at the state of his decomposing, poverty stricken town and that he has lost everything he once held dear.

You get an initial glimpse of this intense inner conflict as soon as the film begins where, after a humiliating argument in a pub, Joseph kicks his dog to death.

Once he comes to his senses, Joseph is visibly grief stricken. While this may sound like a stereotypical “monster who feels” character development scene, Mullan pulls it off naturally and smoothly with a realism so very far from Hollywood.

The next day Joseph lets his anger get the better of him again, smashing a post office window after being told to leave for being rude. Soon enough things spiral out of control and he’s beating up some kid in his local boozer for talking too loud.

Fleeing the area, Joseph hides in an old charity shop where he is coerced out of his hiding place by the gentle and warm shop owner Hannah, played by the talented Olivia Colman. The two become unlikely acquaintances, with Hannah humble and content life as a devout Christian charity shop owner in stark contrast to Joseph’s tortured existence.

However we soon discover Hannah’s harbouring some secrets of her own, namely playing an unwilling victim to the sexual and psychological abuse her sadistic and perverted husband James, played by the ever creepy Eddie Marsan, carries out.

Paddy Considine’s writing and directing debut is a poignant and at times disturbing insight into how someone’s private life can become so entangled in violence that they eventually accept this as routine, no matter how destructive it is to the fabric of their being.

Tyrannosaur is shot with the gritty realism that has become a staple of British filmmaking, luring you into scenes through visual dialogue; wordlessly expressing emotions and feelings as clear as the soundtrack itself.

As the film progresses we see more of the dysfunctional lives of these two unlikely friends. As they gradually become closer, bridging gaps of social class, gender and age, their friendship highlights how experiences and emotions are universal to the human condition.

A story of many themes, at Tyrannosaur’s heart is the parasitic hold memories of lost loved ones can have on someone. In Joseph’s case, it fills his minds with regrets and stops him from carrying on with his life; his affection and love are reserved for his social ghosts, leading him to treat the living with aggression and contempt.

Hannah’s narrative arc also highlights the living hell abused women find themselves in. Unable to break out of their circumstance in no small part to the psychological games of their oppressor, yet constantly looking for the good in their perpetrators and overlooking their faults.

Tyrannosaur is a dark and unsettling look into the self destructive lives of people who are unable to break free from their circumstance. It’s finish left everyone in the cinema silent in awe and glued to their seats until the credits rolled.

If you’re looking for a fun, dinosaur themed film to watch though, you’d be better off revisiting Jurassic Park. For Tyrannosaur’s so depressing, it could have been the reason why the dinosaurs died off in the first place.

Kareem Ghezawi

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Dates ‘n stuff

October 2011