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 epistolary voice-over—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 and My Summer of Love, 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 coot drunk on beer and rage, Colman's transformation from a bruised and broken woman to a sunny, solicitous store clerk is alchemic.
The animal (Mullan) after he snaps.
Opens at SIFF Cinema at the Uptown, Fri., Dec. 9. Not rated. 91 minutes.