The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

The resonance of Tyrannosaur

with 11 comments

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.

Amazing acting
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

Written by Jessica

January 30, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Tyrannosaur

11 Responses

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  1. A truly amazing film. Very very dark and morbid… but a great film none the less!!

    Thanks for the write up matey

    Scott Lawlor

    January 30, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    • It’s especially amazing considering it’s a debut film. I hope he chooses to proceed on the director path. Thanks for stopping by Scott!


      January 30, 2012 at 12:42 pm

  2. Lucky you, this is another one I’ve been dying to see since last January but haven’t got a chance to yet.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    February 1, 2012 at 12:19 am

    • I almost missed it out. My local arthouse theatre was going to show it but then they had a water leakage and had to shut down one of their two salons and Tyrannosaur got the short stick. But they showed it a couple of times at least and fortunately I managed to get to one of the showings. I’m glad I did.


      February 1, 2012 at 7:42 am

  3. […] with me ever since TIFF is Paddy Considine’s directorial debut, TYRANNOSAUR. Jessica has a well spoken wrap-up of the indie […]

  4. Excellent review Jessica. I agree with you wholeheartedly. For such a grim film, it managed a sense of hope. I’ve actually met Peter Mullan a couple of times. He’s from Glasgow, like myself. I actually take some pride in his marvellous performance here. Olivia Colman was most impressive though.

    Mark Walker

    April 20, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    • Thank you! They were both amazing and the fact that they weren’t even nominated for the Oscar awards is unexplainable to me. They had very few challengers last year. That would be Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk about Kevin and Michael Fassbender in Shame. But they were up there among the very best. Perhaps it takes an actor as director to get out the very best of other actors.


      April 20, 2012 at 8:56 pm

      • Once again, I agree. The lead actress category could easily have included Colman. She was the best performer for me last year. Considine is an actor I admire very much also. I now admire his directorial abilities aswell.

        Mark Walker

        April 20, 2012 at 9:05 pm

      • I’ll have a further look through your blog also Jessica. I like your taste in films already.

        Mark Walker

        April 20, 2012 at 9:37 pm

  5. […] The Velvet Café och Movies-Noir har också sett den. […]


    July 19, 2012 at 8:03 am

  6. […] Tyrannosaur A man beats his own dog until it dies. Then he cries over losing his best friend – the dog. This is the start of Tyrannosaur and it’s almost unbearable to watch, but still a remarkably well played and gripping drama that also provides at least a glimpse of hope. […]

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