Paddy Considine makes his directorial debut with Tyrannosaur, a film that has much to do with dinosaurs as Jurassic Park was to do with wife beating. A bleak and uncompromising film, Tyrannosaur quickly establishes Joseph (Peter Mullan) as an outsider. He’s antisocial, violent and, most of all, lonely. He kicks his dog to death moments after we’re introduced to him but, as the story unfolds, we get to know a character who’s so much more than a delinquent.
His flaws attract the good Samaritan interests of Hannah, played sublimely by Olivia Colman, and an unlikely friendship soon develops between them. As the story progresses we discover the domestic violence Hannah is subjected to by her husband (Eddie Marsan) – a particularly nasty scene involving him simply weeing on her while she sleeps. Hannah’s fears of confiding in Joseph soon disappear when unexplainable bruises start appearing. Seeking solace with him after a particularly brutal rape, the two share rare happiness together in the unlikeliest of places (namely a funeral).
Tyrannosaur‘s world is harrowing and depressing. Death and loss appear at every turn and the characters are buffeted through their lives from one hardship to the next. What’s impressive, then, is Considine’s ability to draw hope from his story. His characters may be harassed by misfortune and despair but they are also surrounded by friends (Jospeh’s young next door neighbour being a good example) and the will to carry on. Mullan’s performance is perfect, creating as he does a character who is aggressive but soft-centered and a man who dotes on the memory of his wife. Marsan is presented as his polar opposite, a husband who outwardly appears sociable but who, behind closed doors, attacks his wife in attempt to assert his authority.
Despite the stellar acting of the male characters of the film it is Olivia Colman who excels here. Primarily a story about abuse, she provides Tyrannosaur with a believable and likeable protagonist whose plight engrosses the viewers. Her infallible generosity contrasts the behaviour of the film’s other characters making her experiences even more harrowing.
Packing an unexpected and brilliantly played twist, Tyrannosaur is British film-making at its very best. Its theme and storyline may be bleak but at its heart is a homage to the power of kindness in the face of adversity.