Peter Mullan did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Joseph in Tyrannosaur.
Peter Mullan is an actor often cast in hard roles given his face that seems to suggest a certain history from the very outset. This film opens with Mullan clearly set in a fitting role it would seem as Joseph who we see go about his average day, well more of his night. Mullan is as one would expect effective in portraying the very worst Joe has to offer as his first action is to kill his own dog in a fit of rage. Mullan himself excels in portraying the animalisitc anger in Joseph in the moment. Mullan portrays this with the needed visceral quality as it overwhelms Joseph. He shows it to be something completely without calculation and just the instinctual reaction of the man. The interesting element in Mullan's performance is the way he displays this anger is often like a dog himself, as shown in a later scene where some locals annoy him. Mullan begins with only this fear suggesting that Joseph is unable to deal with what he is really feeling, and instead falls upon the reaction he has learned over the year. That reaction being just lashing out at whatever is causing him any trouble or merely even making him think about them.
Joseph's usual method though is challenged. First as he comes across Hannah by chance as her initial sunny disposition stands in stark contrast to his own. Mullan and Colman are great together in this early encounter as Colman so well emphasizes only an understanding warmth while Mullan portrays the blunt, though slightly dormant, fury that controls Joseph in the moment. Mullan is remarkable in this scene as he sets up the potential change for Joseph in a very interesting fashion. Mullan does not hold back in portraying the intense venom in Joseph's words as he verbally attacks Hannah for her attempt to comfort him in anyway. Mullan though does not show this to be simple hateful words from a hate filled man. There is something more that Mullan conveys which is a sadness within the vile words. Mullan unveils that hatred hardly defines the man, rather it is emotion of any kind that controls the man. Mullan hows though that the problem with Joseph is that hate simply is the easiest emotion for him to understand.
Joseph's usual behavior does work when he has to face his loneliness while his best friend is dying from cancer. Mullan is incredibly moving in the way he so quietly reveals the very real despair in Joseph as he visits his ailing friend. What's perhaps most powerful in these moments is the struggle that Mullan portrays in dealing with this pain. The apprehension, and even shyness Mullan makes such a natural aspect to Joseph, as he conveys an understanding that his anger did not help, while also portraying a certain confusion as he attempts to find a different way to deal with his feelings. Joseph begins to recognize his own problems in part by attempting to rectify his previous interactions with Hannah. Again Mullan makes this switch so believable as he brings an awkwardness to Joseph. This is as he tries to be wholly courteous and kind to her as he attempts to apologize in his own way as well as gain a bit of her help. This comes first by having her pray for his friend then later on help him find proper clothes for the eventual funeral. Mullan never compromises Joseph, the intensity of the man is always inherent, but he makes the softer qualities that reveal themselves feel wholly genuine.
The film ends up focusing on the hard man who finds a better path, but also focus the good woman who finds a harder path as it details Hannah's relationship with her abusive husband (Eddie Marsan). Hannah eventually comes to Joseph for some sort of shelter after being brutally beaten by her husband. Mullan is terrific in the way he establishes the challenge for Joseph in terms of simply comprehending the situation. Again Mullan is interesting in keeping this timid quality in Joseph as he continues his small steps away from his past, but always keeps the sense that this has been a man who has always been use to people running from him rather coming to him for safety. Mullan's and Colman's chemistry is fascinating as the make the relationship convincing by never simplifying it. The two never play against each other on the exact same wavelength yet they make the connection the two slowly develop honest. They never make the two loving rather there is an underlying understanding that ends up being far more poignant in the end. This is forced to change though as it is revealed Hannah has committed a far more violent act than Joseph ever took part in, though with a different sort of justification involved. What is perhaps Mullan's best scene is found in his heartbreaking reaction as he confronts her over what he saw. Mullan portrays no disgust or judgement, but rather disbelief as Joseph attempts to view the action in context with the woman he has only known to be without hate. The film's final scenes show a reformed Joseph, despite indulging in a violent act though now with an actual reason for it. Mullan does not show us a different man than before, but rather the same man with the needed self reflection. Mullan earns this transition and gives strong depiction of a old dog learning something new.