Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Netflix This: Tyrannosaur

     Tyrannosaur, at its heart, is about anger: the anger that just can't go away, no matter how hard a person tries to fix it or push it deep down in the pit of their stomach. The film starts with several hard-watch-scenes, particularly if you have trouble with animal abuse (in fact, there are at least two scenes in Tyrannosaur that involve pets being killed, whether they deserve it or not). Joseph lives alone after the death of his wife. But he doesn't really live alone, as he spends most of his time with semi-friends and strangers trying to drink away every memory that's latched inside of his brain. Drinking the anger and pain away doesn't help: it always boils to the surface, causing Joseph to lash out at humans, animals, kids, and people of color.
     Joseph is played by Peter Mullan, who is recognizable most to Trainspotting fans (he was also in the modern classic Children of Men), and what a violent and amazing performance it is. It's hard to take your eyes off of him: with his thick accent and deep, sad eyes he conveys Joseph as a broken man on the verge of shattering, a brutal force that--every now and then--turns to kindness when he's near people who make him feel human. He's the old guy at the bar with dark secrets and violent stares.
     After a few violent reactions to everyday situations, Joseph performs a particularly alarming act, and runs from the scene. He knows that he has gone too far, and in a state of desperation, he ends up cowering behind a rack of clothing in a thrift store. This thrift store is run by a woman named Hannah, and instead of shooing Joseph away, she stands on the other rise of the rack, trying to help and understand him. He doesn't say a word, but when Hannah starts praying for him, Joseph breaks down into sobs and tears. Maybe if Joseph would just accept Jesus and the state of his life, any situation would be manageable. But Hannah has secrets of her own, the least of which is her secret alcohol abuse (alcoholism is nothing compared to the state of her home life with her husband).
     Almost everyone in Joseph's life is at odds against him. He strikes up a friendship with his neighbor's son, but the boy's mother has a boyfriend that's a wannabee gangster, chain's bouncing around his neck as he holds back his vicious pitbull from attacking anything nearby. He is the opposite of Joseph: confrontational from the start and obnoxious. Striking up a friendship with Hannah--a kind and generous woman--seems like a logical choice in the correct direction, instead of fighting with bar patrons and his neighbor's boyfriend with a dumb and violent dog.
     Something sets off a spark in Joseph when Hannah shows up to her shop one morning with a black eye. Joseph is finally in a position, seemingly the first since his wife died, to actually help someone in need, instead of letting his anger seep out of every bone, muscle and pore in his body. The film hints at Joseph's relationship with his wife, but it doesn't delve into it too deeply. But it's clear that Joseph will have to make some decisions that may change the rest of his life, due to his new friendship with Hannah and the growing tension between Joseph and the pitbull-holding neighbor.
     Tyrannosaur is directed by Paddy Considine, an actor (whom you may have seen in Hot Fuzz or The Bourne Ultimatum) taking over the directing chair for the first time. He sure does a damn good job: Tyrannosaur is one of the best and most affecting films of 2011. This is the type of movie that just looks at a few damaged human beings. It's not about redemption or learning to change your entire personality. It's depressing at times and always emotional, but only because the character's positions are so dire. I wouldn't even say that's extremely fun to watch--it's dark and brutal. But it's also an honest and realistic look at anger--anger that causes satisfaction for some and pain for others.

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