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My Review of 'Tyrannosaur' - A British Film Released in 2011

Since I'm evidently having troubles in beginning my review, I shall try to make my job easier by putting in another movie to clear my own understanding on 'Tyrannosaur'. The second movie was also a British film that came out in 2009 and starred Colin Firth as a gay professor suffering from melancholic depression, plus it was made by a first time director who is also a fashion designer. Yes, I'm talking about 'A Single Man' which made a quiet reception on the box office but was commended by critics for Colin's heartbreaking performance. In spite of loving the film and Firth's performance, I did realize that the film circumscribed itself to three or four major characters and intended largely on creating an atmosphere. 'Tyrannosaur' does the same thing by limiting its scope to Joseph and Hannah's characters or rather their perspectives and leaving out all extraneous details. We don't know much about Hannah's husband except that he is rich, jealous and dastardly; we also do not get much details of Joseph's life since the script limits us to witness his perpetual aggression. It could all have been dangerously one note had Olivia Coleman and Peter Mullan not made their characters so engaging and uncompromising. Like Colin Firth and Julianne Moore in 'A Single Man', they don't make their actions and dialogs seem 'movie-like' (think a 'Tarantino' film) but sustain the tense suburban atmosphere requisite for 'Tyrannosaur'.

The movie is about Joseph, a middle aged man with a dangerous mind - he is violent, foul-tempered, vituperative, and alcoholic. Before the opening credits begin, we already hear F and C expletives from him as he leaves the bar in a drunken state. He kicks his own dog so hard in the ribs it dies despite his attempts to save him. He is always in the 'attack then repent' mode until he meets Hannah at her store where he hides after assaulting some teenagers. Hannah behaves at first like a woman who will do good for others always and Joseph condemns in quite a colorful language this clich├ęd nature of hers. Joseph's impact on Hannah proves life-changing for her and she realizes that having total faith in God and believing he will do good isn't any use and that she had to take up matters in her own hands (her pathetic childless marriage). This unleashes the rage inside her which she had repressed for so long; on the other hand, for Joseph things begin turning around as he takes the initiative to stop pitying himself.

The title of the movie that has been debated by many for being hastily chosen, foolishly chosen, deliberately chosen to give an 'Indie' appeal and for some, completely wrong as the movie had no dinosaurs in it. I do agree that the director Paddy Considine has picked out a remote idea for the film's title and its more because the film does not venture much in giving us enough background details. The motif of Joseph's late wife and the similarity between her and Hannah should've been more pronounced. Paddy does give us clues about Joseph's relationship with his wife, especially in that small moment where his sister quips "Doesn't this remind you of something?" or something like that when a battered Hannah comes to her place and he asks his sister what should he do with her. And then there is the conversation between Hannah and Joseph later, but it's all too fine for a motif that is the title of the film. Then comes the relationship between Hannah and Joseph: How shall this be critiqued? What is shown to us seems disturbing and spooky enough to make us wonder whether Hannah should've ever met Joseph. I also want to point out the motif of prayer that was constantly spoken of in the beginning could've had more development as the plot progressed. The plot duration itself is a bit sketchy as if we take that Hannah had spent a couple of days with Joseph, how is it that the truth came out so late; surely suspicions are bound to arise when 'the house seems quieter than usual and people don't show up at work' (I'm trying my best to avoid any spoilers). And let's completely forget about the Muslim shop owner angle and overlook the fact that cops rarely seem to appear.

Coleman is so darn good here - take that scene where Hannah's husband arrives at the garments' store just as she puts a tie around Joseph's neck. Her husband threatens to deal with her once she returns home (he doesn't say this aloud as Joseph is present) while Joseph watches her reaction from the changing room. Coleman conveys Hannah's fear and tremulousness so convincingly not just through her face but also through her body movements we totally feel for her character. It's a shame I didn't notice her the first time I watched the disappointing Iron Lady (I like most other viewers was gushing at how good Streep was). Even there, she convincingly reacts to her mother's demential condition. And Mullan does a fine job of making Joseph seem as a man haunted, enraged, trapped and dictated by his past actions. The cinematography is another noteworthy thing - the flat, gray, bleached look to highlight the grittiness of the film. In a scene where Hannah drinks nonstop out of frustration and fear, as the lights keep flashing on her, for a moment it seemed the color of her eyes changed to bright yellow (maybe I'm just imagining) similar to an effect in the movie 'Black Swan'.

Tyrannosaur is intense and difficult to digest, and the performances go hard. Maybe it would've cut deeper had a few more minutes been added (especially towards the ending) to do its themes more justice.

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