The resonance of Tyrannosaur
It’s been over a week since I watched Tyrannosaur and it’s resonating in me, as mighty as the parent bell in the cathedral in my city, lingering in the air long after the ringing has stopped. It’s as if a dinosaur just had passed by, the ground still trembling with fear.
Let me be clear on this point though: giant lizards isn’t the topic of this film. It’s not a Jurassic Park wannabe. If you want to sort your movies into boxes, think rather in the terms of gritty British misery, like Mike Leigh in his darker moments. It hits some of the tones of Naked, but with a slightly brighter lining.
And I can’t stop thinking about it. The images are too strong, to vivid, impossible to watch, impossible to look away from.
If there’s anything I can’t stand watching on a movie screen, it would be cruelty towards animals and sexual and physical abuse of women. Tyrannosaur has both, in abundance.
Joseph and Hannah
Joseph is a working class man who drinks too much and is full of unspeakable rage. The only language he seems to know is violence. In one of the first scenes we see him beating up a dog until it dies. Then we see him mourning. It turns out that it was his own dog – and about the only friend he had in the world.
Hannah is on the surface better off, living a middleclass life in a nice house with a nice car, spending her days in a Christian charity second hand shop where he offers prayers to those who seem to need it. And that’s how she gets to know Joseph, as he one day stumbles into her shop, taking shelter from the world and from his miserable life.
But it doesn’t take long before it’s clear that for all her prayers and good heart, Hannah’s life is no better than Josephs. We realize this as we get our first glimpse of her husband, who on his late arrival at home one night walks up to the couch where Hannah is pretending to sleep and pees on her. It marks the beginning of a row of cruelties and acts of unspeakable humiliation that he puts her through. And like Joseph, she has no one to turn to ask for help.
Needless to say, Tyrannosaur is a tough watch. It’s also dealing with an old topic, domestic violence against women. Is it still worth watching? Yes, definitely, if you ask me. It would have a 5/5 rating for me, if it wasn’t for the last 10 minutes, which felt a little rushed, as if they’d suddenly run out of budget and wanted to put an end to it as quickly as possible.
The quality of the movie isn’t as much about the story as it is about the amazing acting by Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman in the leading roles. They are multidimensional and go far beyond the cliché of the hateful, violent brute or the spineless, submissive victim. In the fear and weakness there’s also strength. In the aggression there are strokes of tenderness and love. I could swear that Joseph and Hannah exist for real, and that’s about as good as acting can get I guess.
Tyrannosaur made me go into places, getting to know people and environments that I usually would make big extra rounds to avoid at any costs.
And the bells keep ringing. Mostly in minor, but if I pay attention I can hear the major, hopeful and soothing.
Tyrannosaur (Paddy Considine, UK, 2011) My rating: 4,5/5