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tyrannosaur-poster02“Tyrannosaur,” a new drama from actor-turned-director-and-writer Paddy Considine—best known for his work in films like “In America” and “24 Hour Party People”—is a grim but compelling look at a man hell bent on destruction, until he meets a woman who gives him a glimmer of hope.

I know, it sounds like the kind of thing we’ve seen a million times before, but Considine’s camera is so unflinching in showing the details of this man’s descent and devastating search for redemption that it makes the movie a singular experience.

It takes a special kind of movie to start with the killing of a dog… and then get harsher from there but “Tyrannosaur” does, and in doing so paints a harrowing portrait of the cycle of violence that has so stained its protagonist.

Joseph (Scottish character actor Peter Mullen, currently also on screen in “War Horse”) is a deeply damaged man. A widower and a drunk, he is the product of abuse, guilt ridden and prone to rages.  “I’m not a nice human being,” he says, which may be the understatement of the new century. By contrast, Hannah (Olivia Colman), a worker in a nearby charity shop who befriends Joseph, is sweetness and light, but hides a terrible secret; she is abused by her bully husband James (Eddie Marsan).

Considine, who based this screenplay on his award winning short film “Dog Altogether,” weaves their stories into one, creating a character study and a look at class in Britain—highlighting the differences and similarities of working class Joseph to James’s middle class life.

It’s a grim task, but the result is spectacular for viewers with the stomach for it. He cuts no corners, avoids easy sentiment or resolutions but is aided ably by his cast. Mullen’s tight grimace says more than most of the lines of dialogue about Joseph, while Marsden is an unsettling presence, but it is Colman who dominates.

Best known as a comic actress—her credits include “Hot Fuzz” and the Britcom “Beautiful People”—she is utterly authentic—desperate and heartbreaking— in every frame handing in one of the great under appreciated performances of the year.

“Tyrannosaur” is a tragically beautiful film It’s not a journey everyone is going to want to take, but it’s a rewarding one for those who go along for the ride.

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