Tyrannosaur is a struggle against nature; a man struggling against his own nature, and a woman struggling against the nature of another. In such a struggle, who can win?
Joseph (Mullan) is a good man. We know he’s a good man because he’s aware that his nature is a problem. He is an angry, violent and dangerous man. This is a horrible truth and one he struggles with every day. He has become a slave to his nature and it has cost him much. His gruff exterior hides just how much it bothers him that he is so dangerous. He doesn’t trust himself around others and does not let other people get close.
Hannah (Colman) is a good woman. We know she is good because she reaches out to Joseph and attempts to comfort him. But Hannah is in need of help herself and as Joseph grows closer she begins to push him away, lest he becomes aware of her problems. Joseph wants to stay away, lest Hannah suffers Joseph’s problems.
But there is a bond there that grows. Hannah gives Joseph something to latch onto, something to be good for. Joseph gives Hannah a sense of security. Hannah recognises the difference between Joseph and her husband James (Marsan). Joseph struggles with his violent nature; James merely has moments of regret, but his violence is more cold and calculating. He ponders his actions too carefully to really be struggling with himself.
Peter Mullan gives a fantastic performance as Joseph's struggle with his irrational violence eventually has some success. But Joseph is still a broken human being - the tyrannosaur will always dwell within. Olivia Colman has a shaky start in a hard-to-sell introductory scene, but after that she comes along in leaps and bounds as real emotional depth is revealed and we slowly learn how broken her character has become.
Tyrannosaur is a striking and moving film which, along with Kill List, shows remarkable strength in British filmmaking this year. It is not without its flaws, however. About three-quarters of the way in there is something of a montage sequence with three or four songs played: the purpose of the scene is clear but it does mark something of a bizarre tonal shift. The ending also leaves a bit to be desired. The main plot is concluded nicely, but a major side-plot still has quite a bit to go. There is an attempt to fix it with a rather awkward and clunky narrative, lessening the film's impact somewhat.
Still, a wonderful story, (largely) well told and with some exceptional performances throughout. Definitely worth seeing, and a fair few high end awards getting tossed its way wouldn’t go amiss either - Sundance has already got that ball rolling.