Sunday, 23 January 2011
SUNDANCE 2011 - Tyrannosaur
Starring: Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman, Eddie Marsan
By Alan Bacchus
Joseph (Peter Mullan) is a spoke in the wheel of domestic abuse, which was handed down by his father to himself. We don’t know what exactly happened in the past but by the sad lonely testy life he leads, his mistakes of the past have carved out a mighty big hole in his heart.
As a character study Peter Mullan’s the right man for the job. His coarse face, gravely smoker's voice and rough working class Scottish accent he’s the epitome of a British hooligan. Joseph’s temper gets the better of him in the opening when, after he’s kicked out of a bar, he takes his anger out on his dog, killing him. Yes, this is the kind of kitchen sink movie we’re in when the dog dies in the first five minutes.
This type of abuse is rampant everywhere in Joseph’s life. His neighbours even, a young boy he takes a liking to, is constantly being intimidated by his mother’s fiery boyfriend and his aggressive pitbull. But when he meets a kindly godfearing lady, Hannah, working in a used clothing store, she’s like a beacon of light through the clouds on the perpetually overcast days.
Joseph just can’t turn off his antagonism though, and he even turns away the kindness of Hannah. But she senses his defensiveness and welcomes him back. Considine, who writes and directs, pulls the rug out from under us with a shocking first act turn wherein Hannah finds herself victim of abuse at the hands of her own seemingly put together and successful husband.
Considine rides a wave between a tender romance of two desperate and lonely souls and sinking his characters further into the depression of their working class shithole. We desperately want the romance to work, not necessarily to consummate but escape their previous lives and start anew. But Considine is ruthless with his characters, choreographing a number of gruesome beatings and touchstones of abuse which cause their characters to change.
In terms of actors turned writer/directors Tyrannosaur’s closest cousin would be Gary Oldman’s Nil By Mouth. Like Oldman Considine aggressively wants to push our emotional buttons and shock into submission. And there’s nothing wrong with that, I appreciate a good cinematic beat down if there’s a heart and soul still beating at the end. Under Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman’s superlative performances and mutual chemistry Considine succeeds in making us want to spend 90mins in the lives of these tortured characters.