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5 October, 2011

Tyrannosaur
 

Runtime: 91 mins Director: Paddy Considine

Review by Delme Stephenson 

Written and directed by actor Paddy Considine, ‘Tyrannosaur’ is quite simply an emotionally, hard hitting piece of kitchen-sink realism. Its principle leads, Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman adeptly carry the weight of the film while Considine coaxes powerful performances and builds a truly affecting drama. From the outset this is a brutal film, but it also succeeds in managing to pinch humour from the darkest of situations.  

‘Tyrannosaur’ has simple premise, it’s about the extreme toll that life can take on people that are suffering; whilst also mediating on the nature of perception. It is hard to view watching Tyrannosaur as a pleasurable experience, but its themes opened my eyes and challenged my understanding of what cinema can be and what it is often not. 

‘Tyrannosaur’ was developed from Considine’s debut short film, ‘Dog Altogether’ which was critically well received though too often forgotten. ‘Dog Altogether’ follows Joseph (Peter Mullan) as he commits violent acts and is caught in a spiral of rage. At the end of the short he finds redemption, outside a charity shop by a kind-hearted woman (Olivia Colman). ‘Tyrannosaur’ expands upon Considine’s short film, as he states, “I wanted to know whether I could apply narrative to my ideas…I begun to explore what was Hannah’s life?” Indeed ‘Tyrannosaur’ does follow the story of two damaged people. Peter Mullan’s Joseph, is an unemployed widower who is caught in a whirlwind of rage and self-loathing. Hannah (Olivia Colman) appears as Joseph’s liberator but is caught in an abusive relationship with her husband James (Eddie Marsan). Both characters form a bond during the course of the film and secrets are slowly uncovered until a final truth is reached.           

‘Tyrannosaur’ has won a slate of awards and recognition. At the 2011 Sundance film festival in January it won awards for direction and for its two lead actors. Peter Mullan is nothing less than fantastic as Joseph. He is an amazing actor and is able to make his character angry, harsh man compelling and charming in a heartbeat. There is a part in the film where he delivers a monologue explaining the meaning behind the film’s title; half-way through his story he is able to change the tone of his voice and mannerisms to that of an ironic cackle, it is in this change that we are really able to glimpse a man rendered full of pain and regret. Eddie Marsan as the abusive husband of the piece - is on top form as usual (I really wouldn’t expect anything less). The real surprise comes from Olivia Coleman who is primarily known for her comedic roles in television programmes such as Channel 4’s ‘Peep Show’ and having acted alongside Considine before in 'Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee'. I have never seen her in anything as challenging or expressive as she is in this role. As Hannah she balances the duality of her character tremendously well and is a revelation.

Paddy Considine has elicited great performances from his cast members. As an established actor of range perhaps this is not so surprising (taking into account that this year he’s already played a homosexual policeman in the Jason Statham action vehicle ‘Blitz’ and a buffoonish lothario in Richard Ayoade’s ‘Submarine’) . What is surprising is how he manages to capture both the worlds of suburbia and the estates of Leeds. There are some really beautiful shots set in the greyest of areas. I was most impressed with a scene that involved Peter Mullan’s character walking into a house and the spaces that Considine found to place the camera and create a sense of unnerving tension. Also the inclusion of Mullan sending up ‘Braveheart’ in one scene (in which he actually starred in) just adds to the punch drunk humour of the piece.   

In conclusion, ‘Tyrannosaur’ is a well directed, written and acted film that manages to be genuinely hard-hitting whilst leaving the viewer with a glimpse of hope and artfully applying its own brand of charm. Be warned, it’s a pretty strong film and you will wince and watch through fingers. Regardless, it's only fitting to raise a glass of sherry to the genius of Paddy Considine the actor, writer and director!