By Anna Bielak | April 2, 2012
Director: Paddy Considine
Writer: Paddy Considine
Starring: Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman, Eddie Marsan, Ned Dennehy, Samuel Bottomley
Some species never die. Rough, lonely widowers, brutal husbands and polite, self-sacrificing wives are not endangered ones. Thank God (who plays one of the leading roles in this film) writer-director Paddy Considine did not take the easy way out, and tell a story about any of them. His Tyrannosaur is very nuanced and extremely subtle feature. Sound crazy? Maybe, if you have in mind the very first cruel scene of the film — in which Joseph (Peter Mullan) kicks his dog to death; or another scene, in which James (Eddie Marsan) pees on his wife Hannah (Olivia Colman) as she sleeps on the couch. Yet, watching Tyrannosaur, I would rather look for the mechanisms utilized by Considine to hide intimate emotions from the viewers eyes. There are feelings we do not want to share with everybody around us. Loneliness is that kind of feeling; fear is another one; weakness is the most concealed one. Very often they are covered up by anger, enmity or cynicism — emotions that are so blatant that it is difficult to focus on anything else.
The dog-kicking scene is the most influential one. The feeling that occurs at that moment stays with the viewers until the very end of the film; it repeatedly comes forward in the narrative in a variety of ways, reminding us that we cannot handle what has happened in the recent past. Joseph has problems with the past as well. He destroys the kennel, because it reminds him of what he has done. What else is troubling him so much? He lives alone in a poor Irish neighborhood, in an old house with creaky wooden floors. He does not like being closed inside, Joseph prefers spending his time in local bars; it gives him opportunity to quarrel frequently enough to release the tension that drives him crazy. He is used to hiding his real face from others, just as he hides it from the view of Hannah’s eyes. Joseph enters Hannah’s charity shop by accident and Hannah reacts in the bizarrest of ways — as soon as she notices Joseph’s veiled presence, she begins to pray. Hannah is defined by her religion. Christ’s image is always behind her. She has nothing but her beliefs? Joseph doubts it. Hannah lives with her husband James in a big white house in a good area of the city.
Having things, regretting things, and believing in things — this fills in the landscape that we are looking at. I prefer the smaller pictures, comprised of details — gestures, hidden tears, and painful smiles. I am looking for those kinds of scenes in Tyrannosaur’s world and their presence convinces me that nothing is as obvious as it may seem. The inner, intimate world of Hannah is full of secrets that you would never want to be a part of. Beaten-up by her cruel husband, she is the most unhappy creature in Considine’s world. Joseph regrets most of things he has done during his life. Is that not one of the most disappointing things one needs to face? Living your life not as planned, while being fully conscious about it? Everything seems to be so easy to be named. Everybody seems to be so typical when we catch a glimpse of their behavior or the environment they live in. Everything is so obvious because we have already learnt by heart everything we know about poor wives, terrible husbands and old, local boozers.
Yet, let’s be honest — what do we really know about creatures like tyrannosaurs? We have nothing more than a plain image of them and we try to find it in the film. Considine characters tell us who the real tyrannosaur is; however, I see another component of the creature’s hidden presence. Looking for it, we are searching for the image of something big, losing the path of the details; yet nothing more than the details turn Hannah and Joseph’s worlds upside down, juxtaposing it with everything that we anticipate. The story starts to be filled in with delicate feelings, subtle gestures, uncertainty and the troubles with sharing experiences with others. There is no tyrannosaur in the picture. The person who was nicknamed after the dinosaur is absent, dead for years now. The picture we were supposed to find is not there. We live with the ghosts of the dead. They should have disappeared by now to make room for something new; smaller species, elusive emotions.
Big tyrannosaurs were the angriest ones. Neither Joseph, nor Hannah need anger anymore. Along with the dinosaurs, the first world has died. In the world that was born afterwards, nothing was the same as it had been. Joseph and Hannah are not the characters we imagined at the very beginning. There is a tenderness in Joseph, his home is the only safe place we may find. And Hannah? She is not as dedicated of a wife as she seems to be. There are boundaries that she crosses without much hesitation. Death is all around us in their world. We appreciate its existence. We can experience it in several dimensions. Metaphorically speaking, the world full of stereotypes dies in Tyranossaur in the first place. The world where violence is always a bad thing is dead. The world where a Christian should turn their other cheek to their tormentor is dead. Is it good? I do not know. I am sure that nothing is black-and-white; and the shades of grey are much more intriguing, ambiguous and interesting than they may appear.