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Peter T Chattaway

Tyrannosaur

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Jeffrey Wells:

The most original adult love story I've seen in ages. Easily the biggest shock of the Sundance Film Festival so far. I didn't see this one coming -- it's a much stronger and more focused film than I expected from a smallish British drama about an older working-class guy with a temper problem. It curiously touches.

Tyrannosaur is a drama that deals almost nothing but surprise cards -- a tough story of discipline, redemption and wounded love. Cheers to director-writer Considine for making something genuine and extra-unique. He's not just an actor who's branched into directing with a special facility for coaxing good performances -- he's a world-class director who knows from shaping, cutting, timing, holding back and making it all come together. . . .

The beast of the title is Joseph (Mullan), an alcoholic, widowed, violence-prone rage monster who lives alone in Leeds. He all but melts when he encounters Hannah (Colman), a kind and trusting shop merchant who shows Joseph a little tenderness. Hannah talks the Christian talk but is just as close to alcohol, which she's turned to as a sanctuary from her ghastly marriage to a homely, ultra-possessive monster of another sort (Marsan) who brings violence and subjugation to Hannah on a constant basis. . . .

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Hmm. Actually the beast of the title is Joseph's dead wife - he called her that, but certainly he (and others) fit the name.

A modest crowd at the screening at LAFF. Seems to be under the radar, and I don't think it should be.

It's scheduled to open in October.

written and directed by Paddy Considine.

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Ken Morefield is losing his... composure over this one. He's been tweeting things like "See it. See it. See it. See it. See it."

And now here's his review.

So now, well... I can't wait to see it see it see it see it!

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FWIW, I'll be seeing it the opening night of the Vancouver film festival, on September 29. Right after seeing Like Crazy.

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Kenmorefield, if you're reading this, I have to say I'm not really sure what you're on about, especially towards the end of your review. I get that you don't want to get into spoilers, but... okay, I want to get into spoilers.

I am also curious as to whether there was any laughter (nervous or otherwise) at the screening you attended. Peter Mullan is such an over-the-top rageaholic from the very first minute we see him that I think some of his statements and actions -- not all, by any stretch, but a few, at least -- had the effect of... of... well, he began to remind me of the Jack Nicholson character in As Good as It Gets, who always said politically-incorrect things, and whose tendency to say such things had audience members waiting for his next verbal explosion. (I certainly don't think Paddy Considine intends for there to be any laughter the way that James L. Brooks did, but something about the way the film and the character are constructed may lend itself to that effect... maybe.)

I will say that I appreciated the sequence in which a certain character stands up for herself, and briefly feels a moment of private empowerment, and then suddenly finds the stakes raised in a rather horrifying manner.

Oh, one other film that came to mind while watching this one: Sling Blade, and its suggestion that sometimes violence -- brutal, remorseless violence -- IS the appropriate thing to do, especially when it's in defense of the defenseless. (I am referring here to the bit with the dog, which admittedly takes place AFTER the kid is harmed rather than before, BUT the point is made that Mullan's character probably SHOULD have intervened earlier, and it was his effort to turn the other cheek -- partly under the influence of the religious lady -- that held him back.)

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Oh, one other, trivial thing: It's hard to make out what the actors are saying sometimes, but am I correct in thinking that, when Peter Mullan moons someone, he yells "Freedom!"? If so, then that's a fun little bit of intertextuality, considering that Mullan himself had a part in Braveheart way back when.

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Kenmorefield, if you're reading this...,

Peter, I have a Google alert that searches for "Kenneth R. Morefield" or "kenmorefield" and sends me an e-mail when there is a new web page that has that string of characters in, so, yeah, I usually see things if/when someone mentions me by name. (I may not if there is just a link to my review or something I said....at least not unless I'm in here for something else.) That said, I'm always flattered when anyone thinks enough of my work to post something about it, comment about it, or read it, even though (especially though?) I try to avoid engaging in A&F too much because there is too much snideness and/or argument (of a style and sort that I don't care for) for my taste.

I have to say I'm not really sure what you're on about, especially towards the end of your review. I get that you don't want to get into spoilers, but... okay, I want to get into spoilers.

Appreciate much your tone of inquiry and respect rather than dismissiveness.

I guess what I mean in general by the end of my review is that

much of the emotional power of the film for me resides in the way that Hannah's abuse gets enmeshed with her faith to the point that her situation causes a crisis of faith, and the ways in which, like it or not, Joseph [or the relationship with him] becomes a lifeline whereby despair that it's all a lie and God either isn't there or doesn't care is mediated.

on a more specific level, if you are referring to

"you are God" and "you cannot fail"

I mean that

when dealing with people who are that desperate, who are literally or figuratively drowning, the distinction between "God" and "God's instrument" largely collapses. You are God because in such moments people's beliefs about God are [almost?] completely determined by your actions. If they have decided you are the instrument or vehicle through which God is speaking to them, then what you say or do is the embodiment of how God feels about them. In that context I think it is interesting that Joseph wants to reject her, in fact TRIES to reject her ("you can't stay here") but when confronted with her utter helplessness outside the house can't actually bring himself to follow through. I've actually thought quite a bit in the intervening time about the relationship between this scene and the number of time's the wife in Win Win says, "we don't have a choice" (when discussing what they must do in reference to Kyle. Can you not fail because God strengthens or empowers you in those rare, decisive moments? Because He compels you? That's a mystery to me, but I believe SOMETHING happens in those moments where people who are not totally corrupt are confronted with utter, abject, and complete helplessness. I think they are rare because our own self-defense mechanisms and pride keeps us from almost ever getting to that point, and there is something about those moments that makes me intuitively feel like the helplessness and vulnerability must be complete to activate the process. General helplessness doesn't do it. We have to be in a unique situation where we (and perhaps we alone) see and UNDERSTAND where a person is at and so know, even if we don't verbalize it, what rejection would mean. In the context of the film, that happens [for me] outside the house and at the point where Joseph says "You're fucked." I think that is both a literal and symbolic statement, and at that moment it is only by seeing her as she is and still loving her [i use the term in a non-sexual way] that Joseph can help heal her. If he rejects her at that point, I think she's pretty much done with God and may be lost [in some sense] forever. This is, of course, not the same thing as helping her/fixing her situation. It's not important he do that. (He actually can't do that.) But he can accept her in spite of the situation, and this is what he must do.

I've been waffling since Toronto whether this or The Kid With a Bike is my favorite film of the year so far, right now

the pendulum is swinging a bit towards the Dardennes film which I actually think is more tight but largely because a part of me wonders whether or not the end of Tyrannosaur is just a little bit of a cheat. I wanted to see how they addressed the problem with James, so part of me felt like it was a bit of a deux ex machina. Thematically, though, I'm not sure that the film isn't more about Joseph accepting her than solving her problem, and I do think Tyrannosaur was a more immediately powerful film that had a greater emotional impact on me at the time. That may just be a way of saying that in my head I could probably construct better formal arguments for TKWaB, but my heart is really with Considine's film.

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Ken, just a quick note to let you know I haven't forgotten about this thread. I've been so busy the past week-and-a-bit hopping around films at the festival, though, that I haven't had much time to think more deeply about this one (or about your blog post on it, or about your comment here). I appreciate your thoughtfulness, though.

The one thing I think I can say at this point is that Considine did not come to the VIFF, so I had no idea that he had based on any of the characters on his mother or, indeed, that he had "split" his mother into two characters. I am especially struck by the way you took something positive away from the Mullan character's description of his dead wife, when the only thing that stuck in my mind was his description of how she died -- which wasn't exactly flattering. There may have been a more positive element that I missed, though -- and I wonder to what degree I might have missed it because the accents in this movie are pretty thick sometimes! Like, I-sometimes-wished-the-movie-had-subtitles thick, sometimes.

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An interesting reference here to the "Christian friends" of Considine's who let Colman observe their prayer meetings...

I found the video through Jeffrey Wells, who also linked to this much longer review:

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Say what you will about Jeffrey Wells, but when he likes a film, he really goes to the mat for it. He and his readers have just raised $2,000 to sponsor three press screenings, in a bid to boost the movie's chances of getting attention during awards season.

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I am in Ken Morefield's camp on this one (and his comment about Considine distributing the memory of his mother across two characters is brilliant. This is an important observation, I think, about how we use film and literature to distribute the complexity of our feelings about our parents and significant others across multiple fictional nodes. This is both an enlightening and charitable movement that deserves more reflection.)

Above, PTC talks about how the lead in this film may sometimes tend toward Jack Nicholson mugging and I went into the film with this comment in mind. But it quickly dissolved, as the lead is the same guy I have seen in many a pub grimacing over a pint. And then the woman that he encounters holds the exact tensions between piety and legitimate fear that I have seen over and over again in the lives of various Christians. I like that this film is essentially a study in anger, but this study takes place in a much larger and more important story about a victim of someone else's anger. It captures the terrible cycle of abuse and shame that short circuits so many family histories, but then it also confronts us with the elusiveness of redemption.

I am really grateful for this film and find myself wanting to show it to people. It isn't nice. It requires some serious endurance. And even if it may not lead us to any thing that actually looks like redemption or healing, it kind of does. I could sense that the film was a sort of catharsis for the director, and interviews with Considine seem to bear this out. But from my perspective, the film seemed to be about that moment in which hidden angers and violences rise to break the back of one's ability to dissociate faith and practice. There is a certain spot in the film where the characters seem to realize: I have thought incorrectly about everything. (This is an insufficient description of what happens, but I am still trying to parse this out...)

I guess I have been struck lately by how experiences of violence and trauma break our willingness to hold onto certain beliefs simply because we have been trained to believe them.

Victimization both burdens and liberates us, but this can only be stated with the terrible caveat that victims may not always be free to actually exercise this new freedom.

So yes: see it, see it, see it, see it...

Edited by M. Leary

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I guess I have been struck lately by how experiences of violence and trauma break our willingness to hold onto certain beliefs simply because we have been trained to believe them.

Yeah, that is well put. (The whole post is, actually.) I like especially that you don't link this exclusively to Hannah. Joseph has things he believes just, well, because...and we get glimmers of recognition throughout...of a different way of seeing, of something other than what he has always known. (Whichever way you parse that.) The moment when he holds a club and says to the dog on the leash something like "it's not your fault..." Wow.

Anyway, I don't know if I mentioned this in my review or in this thread, but I was reminded while watching War Horse, which also had Mullan and Eddie Marsan in it, that Considine said at TIFF that he made Eddie Marsan read for the role, which was something he was worried about...not because he wasn't sure Marsan could do it but because the scenes between Hannah and her husband were so difficult that he did not feel like he could ask Olivia Colman to do them unless she was secure about the actor playing the scene with her). I found that touching and telling in a way.

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Ken Morefield is losing his... composure over this one. He's been tweeting things like "See it. See it. See it. See it. See it."

And now here's his review.

So now, well... I can't wait to see it see it see it see it!

It's now streaming on Netflix in the USA, so now you can, in fact, see it, see it, see it!

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I saw this over the weekend with every intention of writing about it afterwards and, wow, this is not going to be easy to write about.

There's no question that Joseph is drawn to Hannah at least partly because of her faith. That, and her faith dictates that she ought to act towards and treat him a certain way, so she shows kindness to him when it seems pretty obvious she doesn't want to and clearly has other fairly important things on her mind.

It's such a somber film that, if you don't think about it afterwards, then you're not going to like it. But once you start thinking about the choices these characters are making, you start to appreciate them more.

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I just saw this, and it's a drama like nothing else I've seen. The complications of relationships between very damaged people, some who have had damage done to them, and some wrestling with internal demons, as well as an anger-soaked culture. The interplay between religious faith and personal coping shown in the film, I found to be realistic, particularly among characters that have been damaged so much. There is so much to think about, and I feel I have barely scratched the surface. I think one could write a thesis about the themes about personal anger and

whether and when violence done in revenge can be justified.

Edited by Crow

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Just finished watching this and wow I thought it was incredible. Lots to reflect on and I suspect I will be for awhile. I don't think that this is a film that one moves away from quickly.

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Attica, it isn't. I still think about this film often, and I haven't seen it for a year now. Still on Netflix.

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Attica, it isn't. I still think about this film often, and I haven't seen it for a year now. Still on Netflix.

What's really standing out for me right now is how easily this film could of gone south and become read as being sadistic. But it didn't, I think the film has a love for humanity. My wife didn't like the film much because of its graphic nature and the fact that it made her feel sad. I responded that I don't think the film is supposed to make us happy. I think it's supposed to make us better. To look at own lives and those around us, so that we as individuals and society can prevent from going down those paths.

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M. Leary wrote:

: Attica, it isn't. I still think about this film often, and I haven't seen it for a year now. Still on Netflix.

But not in Canada, which is where Attica lives.

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Does Canada get Amazon streaming? Free for Amazon prime, rentable on Amazon streaming.

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kenmorefield wrote:

: Does Canada get Amazon streaming?

I don't believe so. See, e.g., this story from a year ago on how the Kindle Fire would never find a toehold here so long as Amazon streaming was unavailable on this side of the border.

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I just watched it too, thanks to comments in this thread.

What's really standing out for me right now is how easily this film could of gone south and become read as being sadistic. But it didn't, I think the film has a love for humanity. My wife didn't like the film much because of its graphic nature and the fact that it made her feel sad. I responded that I don't think the film is supposed to make us happy. I think it's supposed to make us better.

Yes, I agree about the love for humanity. I think that's what makes it bearable and what animates its sadness. I felt fear and sympathy for a trio of characters: the boy, Hannah, and Joseph. I dreaded what would happen to the first two and what the third would do to himself. But violence and the possibility of forgiveness were constantly in play. The film surprised me repeatedly and the surprises felt earned and articulate.

I like that this film is essentially a study in anger, but this study takes place in a much larger and more important story about a victim of someone else's anger. It captures the terrible cycle of abuse and shame that short circuits so many family histories, but then it also confronts us with the elusiveness of redemption.

I am really grateful for this film and find myself wanting to show it to people. It isn't nice. It requires some serious endurance. And even if it may not lead us to any thing that actually looks like redemption or healing, it kind of does.

I think I am already grateful too and I find myself wanting to understand what I've seen and why I was so moved.

Like James, Joseph is cruel where he owes love and nurture. And the link between the first scene with James, where Hannah feigns sleep- and Joseph's abuse of his dog and verbal tearing down of his wife and Hannah - is punishing. But James's cruelty is opaque and his apologies a form of self-pity. The film reduces him to tears but it doesn't explain his sadism.

Through Joseph I felt the study in anger became a study in the human compulsion to desecrate beauty (and the film and Joseph use that word in its highest sense). We are drawn to it and then drawn to attack it: because it asks much of us, because we don't trust ourselves not to betray it, because we're terrified by how it disarms our defenses and by how its fragility recalls and summons forth our own.

For me, somehow Joseph emerges as the moral center, the character who in Hannah's words, I felt safe around. And I'm kind of stunned that should be so. Maybe it's the way he apportions innocence and accountability. He tells the dog 'it is not your fault', he tells Hannah that he mocked his wife

'because I'm a c**t'.

And when he apologizes to Hannah, having turned her faith, her childlessness, and her generosity against her pitilessly, he means it. Opening scenes peg him as unstable, but he takes his anger out on the shed, turns his back on insults, and

kills a second dog

not in a blind rage or sadistic frenzy but regretfully, and perhaps even mercifully in a blighted world, because he sees no other option. (I'm not quite sure what that death really means in the film, but the family is still locked into a cycle of abuse and misery, and the boy is still in danger.)

The film kept me reconsidering its perceptions of monstrosity, how far we can trust them and the power of compassion to pierce them. We link Joseph and the pit bull: pent up aggression on a short leash.. And it's not that the film undoes that equivalence, it just enlarges an d illuminates it . So Joseph, not trusting himself with this second chance at love, tells Hannah he doesn't wish his wife alive because he would still treat her like a dog. And the dog which looks and behaves like a slavering brute, Joseph recognizes as a beautiful creature humiliated and tormented beyond endurance. And Hanah, whose beauty and worth he also affirms (explicitly, in his letter to her, and through the act of visiting her), is likewise chained to her abuser and pushed too far. And I think the lag from when Joseph finds the evidence in the house and stares at her in frozen horror, seemingly silent and immobile when she pleads to be held - to their reunion - is wonderfully prolonged. Throughout the film, suspense is driven by the threat of violence. So I love how at the end suspense hinges on forgiveness. During the long take in the visiting room we literally wait for the camera to 'see' Hannah. Symbolically, we wait for Joseph to see past her wounds and the monstrosity of pain. (I think there is a moment of ambivalence, when we cannot quite read Joseph or the film's verdict on Hannah. After what Joseph finds in her house, her domestic display of cooking and flowers could rebound on her grotesquely. (as opposed to marking, like another character in another movie's endless bars of soap, her need to purge herself of a nightmare.) Sickness exacts a toll in lost limbs, prison terms, even death. But it isn't our fault.

I am especially struck by the way you took something positive away from the Mullan character's description of his dead wife, when the only thing that stuck in my mind was his description of how she died -- which wasn't exactly flattering. There may have been a more positive element that I missed, though -- and I wonder to what degree I might have missed it because the accents in this movie are pretty thick sometimes

Peter, the accents were really broad and I probably read too much into the story of the dead wife. But I thought one thing it meant was that we're all emotional diabetics, addicted to what kills us. If Tyrannosaur is our world, how can we survive intimacy? Hence Joseph's belief that the perfect relationship is the one that never materialises . I also think that when Joseph takes the Tyrannosaur joke back, confessing that it was malicious, unfunny, and inaccruate, and that the 'lovely face' in the photo was matched by an inner loveliness, it means something. Even though it comes too late for his wife.

I was touched by how the rare moments of love and joy and caring are all palliative. They all seem to happen in the aftermath of loss.

Hannah and Joseph reconcile over his friend's deathbed. Their first moment of intimacy is when she puts the funeral tie around his neck. Death also dissolves the daughter's bitterness and the wake is our first sight of people looking relaxed and happy. The only sign that the little boy next door is loved is when he and his mother bend over his butchered toy. Even James falls to his knees and we see in Hannah's bruises and the expression on her face as she forgives by rote, that it's too late. Joseph can only express his feelings for his wife and Hannah after the first is dead and the second

incarcerated

. So there's that.

But I still feel the film ends in hope and possibility, if not outright redemption. I loved the last and next-to-the last scenes.

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I just watched this. Don't know why it took me so long. I could complain about the film's lack of awards attention, but I'm a small part of that problem, having not seen it ahead of year-end WAFCA voting in 2011. I certainly would've gone to bat for Mullan and Colman, both of whom are tremendous. Like Michael, I'd like to advocate for this film and show it to others, but that scene of sexual assault is so ugly I don't know if I'll be able to sit through it with others. (I imagine other might be at least as traumatized by

the dog scene

.)

Edited by Christian

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