We watched the harrowing movie, Tyrannosaur, on DVD tonight. It's one of those remarkable movies where no one puts a foot wrong, not the actors, not the production team. It's also so tension-filled (but not in a thriller kind of way) that you feel at times as though you're barely breathing.
Joseph, played with extraordinary depth by Peter Mullan, is a violent man who can't bear to be crossed. At least at the start of the movie, where the opening scene has him saying almost nothing but swear words, and then giving his loved dog such a vicious kick that the poor animal dies that same night. Next we see him smashing a shop window because the shop-owner dared to tell him not to shop there again (with good reason). But Joseph knows he's all wrong somehow, even though he seems to revel in the violence.
Something happens in his head after a drinking session, and, as though something is chasing him, he runs into a charity shop (NZ: op shop) and hides himself amongst the clothing. The woman running the shop (Olivia Colman) tentatively offers him a cup of tea, offers to pray for him...and does. This is the beginning of an odd relationship in which ultimately he will be protecting her (within his limits) as she hides from her abusive husband (Eddie Marsan, at his nastiest).
In spite of the Christian tone in that early scene, and some more genuine praying a bit later on, God doesn't turn up and rescue everyone. There is change, and there is a breakthrough, though it's hardly the sort that most Christians might recommend. God isn't seen as the answer to the prayers in any straightforward way. He does seem to be at work, though he plainly finds it hard to keep some idiots from being their own worst enemies. Whether Paddy Considine, the writer and director of the film (his first feature, incidentally) intends us to believe in God or not is a moot point. No doubt other darker readings of the film are perfectly possible.
Colman's character, Hannah, in spite of her genuine praying, is almost as mixed up as Joseph. She has good reason to be, given her husband's violence towards her, and her inability to change it. She's the character who brings the most surprises to the story. On the other hand Joseph seems to be easily read by us as viewers from early on, but Considine never writes according to any routine script-line. Joseph has subtleties that are explored in due course, and though he's probably not entirely trustworthy, because he struggles to trust himself, he still has some integrity left.
At first it seems as though we're never going to get past the foul language (which for once is appropriate to the situation), but the film goes deeper and deeper with every scene. It's like sliding down into muck in order to find something of value at the bottom.