Tyrannosaur opens with a dog being kicked to death by its master, Joseph (Peter Mullan), a Leeds widower curdled by his own fury; near the film’s end, he harms another pooch even more savagely. “An animal can only take so much humiliation before it snaps,” he says in voiceover—a truism that also applies to Hannah (Olivia Colman), an abused wife whom Joseph meets at a Christian-run thrift shop. The feature-length directorial debut of Paddy Considine, an actor best known for In America, Tyrannosaur is British miserabilism at its most numbingly brutal and blunt. The ferocious batterings (and worse) inflicted on Hannah by her church-pillar husband (Eddie Marsan) play not as unwavering, “honest” depictions of abject reality but as a relentless, near-gratuitous wallow in other people’s pain. The tentative friendship that develops between Joseph and Hannah, rather than providing a small glimmer of hope among all the grimness, demonstrates Considine’s own unsteadiness with plot coherency and logic, especially during the final scene. At best, Tyrannosaur is an actor’s showcase: Although it’s no stretch for Mullan to play another coont drunk on beer and rage, Colman’s transformation from a broken woman to a sunny store clerk is alchemic.
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