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Stephen Tomkins

Paddy Considine
Certificate 15, 87 mins


'Long is the road and hard that out of hell leads up to light,' Milton said. But then there are other long hard roads in hell too, and they don't lead up at all.
Tyranosaur is the story of two lives in two very different hells, and it is multiplexes away from a glib Hollywood tale of assured redemption. You might call it bleak, certainly it is unflinching in its scorn for neat resolutions, but it takes the hell of wrecked lives so seriously that any light it does find a way to is going to be the real thing. The question is, can you get there from here?  

Hannah (Olivia Coleman, known until now for TV comedy including Peep Show and Rev) is a Christian, meek, kindly, well-spoken. She lives in the aptly-named Manners estate, and runs a charity shop in a rougher part of town. One day Joseph (Peter Mullan, the drug dealer Swanney in Trainspotting) bursts in and hides behind a clothes rack, though he doesn't seem to be hiding from anyone.

Joseph, an older unwaged Scot, is a violent man consumed with boiling, uncontrollable rage that destroys all around him. When later he demolishes his shed and sits in an armchair amid the wreckage, the image captures his life with terrible accuracy. Hannah instinctively reaches out to him and offers to pray.

She seems to be taking on more than she can handle. He responds to her kindness but when she talks to him about God being his father, he unleashes a torrent of abuse directed against God, his father and her facile faith and cushy life. But he is wrong about her. Behind her resolute cheeriness and the smart doors of Manners estate, she is the victim of horrendous abuse, as inescapable as his own rage.

Tyranosaur is the debut feature of the actor Paddy Considine who is still turning up in great low-budget British films despite having 'made it' to Hollywood. It's truthful, compassionate and utterly compelling. At its heart are two people you care about to an extraordinary degree, and two unforgettable performances, a perfectly observed portrait of rage from Mullan and a revelation from Coleman.

Also at its heart is a confrontation between the cardinal sin of anger and the cardinal virtue of charity. Having seen so many onscreen redemptions, we immediately ask whether Hannah's charity can overcome his anger, but the problem is more complex. Her very meekness is what traps her in her own suffering - does she need to learn to be less forgiving and more angry as much as he needs to unlearn those lessons? Perhaps, but neither is an easy answer.

The two most devastating developments in the film come as a result of Joseph for once managing to resist his anger, and Hannah overcoming her meekness.
You don't often see religion dealt with so masterfully on the screen as here. One scene recalls Kieslowski's Dekalog, where a bereaved father takes his anger out on an icon, spilling a candle which drops wax tears on Christ's face. Here when Hannah throws something at her charity shop Christ, the painting slips, but he just hangs there staring into space. And yet the last thing we see in the film is the cross round her neck, the light still shining, despite everything.

Steve Tomkins