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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Tyrannosaur

Introduction

Tyrannosaur was written and directed by the actor Paddy Considine. It is his first full-length film as a director and was released in 2011. It stars Peter Mullen (who plays Joseph), Olivia Colman (Hannah) and Eddie Marsan (James) whose excellent performances make this powerful drama so unforgettable. Tyrannosaur has been very well reviewed, and won several awards, including three British Independent Film Awards in 2011 (Best Actress, Best British Independent Film and Best Debut Director) and a BAFTA in 2012 for Outstanding Debut for a British Writer, Director or Producer. It is set in an unnamed town in Northern England and was actually filmed on location in Leeds and Wakefield, using local residents as extras.

 

Tyrannosaur

The Film

The film opens with a most distressing scene of unbridled rage as widowed ex-prisoner Joseph destroys the only thing he really loves. This deeply unpleasant vision sets the tempo for what follows as we are drawn in to his world of anger, aggression and conflict, only occasionally relieved by some lighter, humorous moments. It demonstrates the well-recognised close association between love and hatred, so often present when things go wrong within relationships, that frequently becomes a focus of psychoanalytic psychotherapy sessions. Why do we hurt the ones we love? That is the fundamental question that this film poses.

After a pub brawl, Joseph takes refuge in a charity shop where he encounters a volunteer sales assistant, Hannah, who tries to reach out to him in his obvious distress, buoyed up and driven by her Christian beliefs. Joseph initially responds in his characteristic way, by being hurtful and abusive to Hannah and humiliating her for attempting to be kind. However, it soon becomes clear that all is not what it seems in her suburban middle class marriage to James and this draws Joseph closer to her, perhaps united by their shared unhappiness and despair. The viewer soon learnss that she is struggling to survive emotional and physical abuse perpetrated by her husband James, which is portrayed in harrowing scenes that pull no punches. As Joseph and Hannah’s friendship forms and then deepens, the cracks in Hannah’s marriage develop and spread, with ultimately disastrous consequences. 

Relevance to the field of Mental Health

Tyrannosaur is a film about anger and violence that is portrayed in a painfully realistic way. This anger is embodied both by an individual, Joseph, who is consumed by rage, and by a couple, Hannah and James, whose middle class marriage is destroyed catastrophically by domestic violence. The film eloquently makes the point that physical and emotional abuse can be found in all areas of society. Anger is something that will certainly be encountered by those working in the field of mental health at some time in their career, if not throughout it, but anger also affects those working in many other areas of healthcare, including in general practice. Tyrannosaur gives the viewer the opportunity to experience, at close hand, anger that is out of control and in particular gives insight in to the important issue of intimate partner violence, often hidden from view in apparently satisfactory relationships.

Those employed in the health and social care professions are often the first port of call for victims of domestic violence and it is crucial that professionals are vigilant about the possibility, and ask the right questions of an individual who may be subject to partner abuse. A recent editorial in the British Medical Journal in March 2012, called Responding to domestic violence in primary care (BMJ 2012;344:e757), highlighted the need for clinicians in primary care to routinely enquire about intimate partner violence in order to increase its detection. Further consideration was given to the topic in an earlier article in the BMJ entitled Violence between intimate partners: working with the whole family (BMJ 2008; 337 doi: 10.1136/bmj.a839). The Department of Health published a document, in 2005, containing guidance on managing domestic violence (Responding to domestic abuse: a handbook for healthcare professionals) that can be accessed and downloaded from the following link.

A viewing of Tyrannosaur alongside a reading of these articles and guidance would provide a very good platform for discussion and learning about the very important issue of domestic violence. But perhaps the film can also give an understanding to viewers who have grown up in circumstances largely free of anger and violence, what it might be like to live in such an environment. For medical students, lacking a first hand experience of violence, who may find themselves treating people from a wide variety of unfamiliar backgrounds, this film may offer invaluable insights in to some of those foreign territories.

Be warned, this is not an easy film to watch, but it is well worth the challenge.

•  More information about Tyrannosaur is available at IMDB as is a short trailer.

•  The DVD can be purchased at amazon.co.uk.

•  Minds on Film is written by consultant psychiatrist Dr Joyce Almeida.

 

 

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About this blog

 

Minds on Film is a monthly blog that explores psychiatric conditions and mental health issues as portrayed in a selection of readily available films.

Please note that this blog may contain plot spoilers. Any views expressed are purely my own.

Dr Joyce Almeida
Dr Almeida is a consultant
psychiatrist working in the private sector in the UK.