a most fearsome dinosaur

i had a couple of firsts this past saturday. it was the first time i’d seen a SIFF film at SIFF cinema. i was the first person in line, for the first time ever. i managed to find a parking spot on lower queen anne on the first try (and on a saturday night, no less). and it will be the first time i will use the word “unflinching” to describe peter mullan’s performance in tyrannosaur.

peter mullan as joseph

this is not a happy film. joseph (peter mullan) is an angry man who is so used to violence that any other action, and any other emotion, is something foreign. hannah (olivia colman) is a woman he meets by chance when he stumbles into her charity shop to hide, either from himself or from some unknown demon that’s chasing him. hannah has issues of her own, though, namely an abusive husband. a relationship of sorts develops between the two, but it’s not all wine and roses. there’s no happy ending (thank god).

what we get is that unflinching performance from mullan. actor paddy considine, who wrote and directed the film, has given us a lead who is unlikable. extremely unlikable. in a scene toward the end of the movie, when olivia is screaming at joseph to come and hold her, he simply stands in the doorway, looking at her like she’s a creature from the black lagoon. the man has few redeeming qualities that rarely come out to play, and when they do, you sometimes wonder if it’s really the same person, the contrast is that stark.

colman, as hannah, holds her own against the towering performance that mullan offers up, and i attribute part of that to the way the character was written. considine shows admirable skill in fleshing out his characters and giving the actors something to sink their teeth into, which makes a hard movie easier to watch.

in the end, though, this is mullan’s film. the barely controlled violence he exhibits through most of it had me waiting for him to lash out, repeatedly, but ultimately, the story is that of joseph and his desire to change. he knows it won’t be an easy thing to do, but he’ll keep trying.

tyrannosaur is slated for release in the UK later this year.

*image via warpx/inflammable films

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