Drawing upon his 2007 short Dog Altogether, director Paddy Considine makes a powerful feature debut with Tyrannosaur, a visceral and harrowing drama. While most of the violence occurs off-screen, Considine’s uncompromising story and astonishing performances from Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman make this all the more sad and real.
Joseph (Mullan) lives a life controlled by rage. A tormented working-class man, he is driven to self-destruction and a cycle of brutality. After a violent incident, Joseph flees into a Christian charity shop run by Hannah (Colman) but when she tries to help him, Joseph dismisses and criticises her for knowing nothing of his harsh existence. While initially perceivable that Hannah might be the one to save him, the audience quickly learns that her life is anything but perfect, as she is constantly abused by her husband, James (Eddie Marsan). Both question their ability to help the other and struggle to rise out of being the villain and victim.
The two are overwhelmed by the growing storm circling them, with a dying friend and an egotistical dog-owning neighbour adding to Joseph’s problems. The film journeys through problems of ordinary people and the commonality of spousal abuse. The relationship between Hannah and Joseph is volatile but slowly moves toward a caring and understanding one, with a hopeful message of the strength of human resilience to be found.
Considine never allows his bleak feature to turn gratuitous and it is his impressive combination of dark compassion and genuine humour that offers the viewer more amidst the horrific narrative. The revelations in Tyrannosaur, however, are the outstanding performances by both Mullan and Colman. Mullan is at his best as the embittered and aggressive Joseph, both brutal and haunted, but even more impressive is Colman. Known mainly as a comedic actor, starring in Peep Show, Hot Fuzz and Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee, Colman here is a conflicted and battered woman, remarkably capturing a tragic figure found in such a simple character.
While Considine doesn’t provide answers to Hannah’s Christianity or Joseph’s rage, much more is revealed through the performances and impressive employment of the classic scope. A bleak, harrowing – yet ultimately redemptive – feature, Tyrannosaur is an accomplished feature debut.
Rating: 9 out of 10
NB: Parts of this article were taken from our 2011 SFF review.