Paddy Considine’s new film Tyrannosaur, his big screen debut that won two awards at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, is the culmination of a promise that Considine’s career had been outlining since he began to leave a mark in British Independent cinema at the start of the last decade. And with this being his first feature-length film, we can look forward to even greater things in the future.
Tyrannosaur expands on the director’s 2007 short film Dog Altogether, following the story of Joseph (Peter Mullan), a man who lives by himself, widowed and unemployed, a heavy drinker prone to violent outbursts. After one such incident, he crosses paths with Hannah (Olivia Colman), a devout Christian and charity shop worker who feels compelled to try to help Joseph through his loneliness and alienation. Joseph resists at first, dismissing Hannah as someone whose sheltered and privileged life makes her unable to understand his torment. However, we soon discover that behind the facade of Hannah’s seemingly happy and peaceful existence lies the horrific truth of her constant abuse at the hands of her violent husband James (Eddie Marsan).
Joseph and Hannah are two characters surviving the fallout of broken dreams, while faced with very few prospects of happiness. It is a bleak reality where even the virtues of religious charity, loyalty and kindness fail to bring any redemption, leading them to realise that is only in each other that they can find support and comfort, and endure their hardships. However, as the characters see their lives spiral beyond their control, and attempt in vain to regain it, the film builds up to a conclusion that is a real punch in the stomach, and will stay with you for days.
Peter Mullen and Olivia Colman’s performances are powerful and moving, and I do mean this beyond the usual way these two words are usually employed. These are truly visceral and raw explorations of hope and lack of it, and if there was any justice in the world (our own, not the one portrayed in the film), we’ll see them both showered with accolades throughout this coming year.
The same goes for Paddy Considine, who reveals himself to be a confident and capable director, and, after his turns co-writing 2004’s Dead Man Shoes and Dog Altogether, reaffirms his abilities as a compelling storyteller. This is a great film and features some of the best performances of the year, and although I can’t promise it will be a necessarily enjoyable experience, it will definitely be a rewarding one.
On a separate note, and just in case you were wondering, the title ‘Tyrannosaur’ is explained in the film as being a reference to Jurassic Park (strange but true), and surely that can only be a great thing…