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Originally published Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Movie review

'Tyrannosaur': 2 troubled souls to pray for

A movie review of "Tyrannosaur," by prolific actor Paddy Considine ("In America"). His writing-directing debut is a rough tale of a broken, angry old widower (Peter Mullan) who forms a friendship with a mistreated Christian charity-shop worker (Olivia Colman).

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3 stars

'Tyrannosaur,' with Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman. Written and directed by Paddy Considine. 91 minutes. No rating; includes rough language, violence, rape scene. SIFF Cinema at the Uptown.

quotes So where does the dinosaur come in? Read more
quotes this was my favorite film at SIFF this year. mullan was amazing. Read more
quotes I found the movie difficult to watch - the male protagonist's rage and misery are so we... Read more

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In the opening moments of "Tyrannosaur," a broken, angry old widower named Joseph kills and crudely buries his gentle dog.

It's a horrific episode, yet somehow you feel more like pitying Joseph than condemning him. Maybe it's because of the remorseful way he fondles the dog's lifeless paws, or the pathetic manner in which Joseph hides out in a Christian charity shop.

He's clearly such a self-destructive mess that he seems more of a candidate for redemption than comeuppance. It's in the gift shop that he finds Hannah, an apparently simple soul who senses his desperation and offers to pray for him.

He insults her, failing to recognize that she's just as troubled as he is, and for a while they can't begin to operate on the same wavelength. They literally live in two very different universes, yet, as first-time writer-director Paddy Considine gradually reveals, she may be in worse shape.

Considine is better-known as a prolific actor ("In America," "The Bourne Ultimatum"), and he gives his cast acres of room to explore the contradictions in these characters.

Peter Mullan, always a fierce performer ("My Name Is Joe" may be his best work), captures Joseph's fury, his vulnerability and his stunning failure to communicate. Olivia Colman's Hannah is credible as both a New Testament devotee and a deeply disappointed woman who assaults a portrait of Jesus when she's convinced of God's silence.

As a writer, Considine sometimes stacks the cards against this pair. If the script ultimately seems a bit extreme (are there no immediate consequences for Joseph's tantrums or the criminal outbursts of Hannah's abusive husband?), it's often surprisingly successful in pushing the limits of British kitchen-sink drama.

Last week, "Tyrannosaur" swept the British Independent Film Awards, including best picture, actress and debut director.

John Hartl: johnhartl@yahoo.com

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