When I heard that Paddy Considine was working on his directorial debut, I immediately hoped it’d be in the tradition of those other fine British actor-turned-writer/directors, Gary Oldman and Tim Roth. Both took one brief spin in the director’s chair, with Nil by Mouth and The War Zone respectively, and managed to turn out two of the hardest hitting slices of kitchen sink realism I’ve had the (dis)pleasure to encounter. Needless to say my expectations were high going into this one.
Set on a rundown Northern council estate, Tyrannosaur tells the story of Joseph, an aging violence-prone alchoholic who is attempting to pull out of a lifelong downward spiral. In the midst of a final booze-fueled rampage he crosses paths with Hannah, a devout Christian woman who runs the local charity shop. They soon strike up an awkward sort of friendship and as Joseph finds himself pulled deeper into Hannah’s world, he discovers that the grass is not necessarily always greener on the other side.
First off, I’m glad to confirm that my high hopes were not in vain. Mr. Considine’s first feature easily earns its rank among the aforementioned actor/directors offerings. Tyrannosaur seethes with violence and human essence. The first ten minutes alone are so soaked with rage you almost need a breather. Considine executes an unflinching examination of the everyday often hidden realities of society: an existence plagued by poverty, spousal abuse, alcoholism and hopelessness.
The cast is made up of many familiar faces. The role of Joseph is played by another actor/director, Peter Mullan (Boy A, The Red Riding Trilogy, My Name Is Joe) and he is no less than stunning, bringing an air of authenticity to the part that could only have been matched by Ray Winstone himself. Olivia Colman (Green Wing, Peep Show) as Hannah is quite a surprise and far removed from her Britcom origins. Initially I was curious as to how she’d take on such a role but her transition from comedic actress to battered housewife / conflicted Christian is seamless. The other recognisable mug is Eddie Marsan (Happy-Go-Lucky, Vera Drake, Red Riding) who all too realistically portrays Hannah’s reprobate husband.
Perhaps one could say do we really need another depressing foray into the lives of the battered and broken? Isn’t there enough hardship in the world without wanting to make/watch films about it? But that’s precisely the point: holding up a mirror and showing the human animal as it truly is. Personally I find ten times more worth in films of this ilk than any such Hollywood fantasy and I hope Considine goes on to create many more bleak masterpieces.
Extras include commentary with Paddy and the producer, the short film (Dog Altogether) the feature evolved from and the theatrical trailer.
Tyrannosaur is available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment