Movie Review: TYRANNOSAUR
Paddy Considine has been a highly regarded underground actor for many years. From his first breakout role in Shane Meadows’ dark coming-of-age drama A Room For Romeo Brass to his utterly frightening performance in Dead Man’s Shoes, he has been praised internationally for his versatility and unspeakable talent. However, back in 2007 Paddy Considine stepped behind the camera for the first time to make his debut film; a short drama titled Dog Altogether. Sweeping a BAFTA and an award at the Venice Film Festival, it showed a promise that Considine’s true calling was not in performing a film, but actually in directing one.
Using the premise of that aforementioned short film as a launch pad – he always believed there was a bigger story to be told – Paddy Considine revisits the characters he established in that directorial debut and fleshes them out for a 90 minute movie titled Tyrannosaur.
Shot on a £750,000 budget on a Leeds council estate, the film tells the story of a violent alcoholic, Joseph, who at the depths of his despair stumbles into a local charity shop owned by a naïve Christian woman named Hannah. With no family or real friends, Joseph hopes to find an escape from his unhappy life in his friendship with Hannah while she herself finds safety with him having spent the last few years as a victim of domestic abuse. Out of their shared anguish, the two form a friendship that keeps one another afloat.
Demonstrating a confidence behind the camera that is rarely seen in feature length debuts, Paddy Considine has created a movie that is far above and way beyond what is usually expected from your stereotypical low budget British flick. He refuses to be compared to the likes Shane Meadows and Mike Leigh – there’s no documentary like shooting here and certainly no improvisation – and makes no apologies for his lack of funding or simply making a British movie. Instead, Tyrannosaur demands to be considered as a real, true piece of cinema.
And so it should be, because regardless of whether it was made on half a million or half a billion pounds and regardless of whether this is British or American, Tyrannosaur is easily one of the best films you’ll see all year.
Whether it’s the opening scene in which Joseph, fuelled by alcohol and in a violent rage, kicks his beloved dog to death or the traumatically brutal scenes in which Hannah is beaten by her husband, Tyrannosaur is a film that is as harrowing as they come. There are moments throughout its 90 minute running length so overwhelmingly upsetting that even the most desensitized of cinemagoers will be left physically shaking in their seat. However, while Paddy Considine’s movie does spent a lot of time exploring the seemingly never ending loop of suffering that his two protagonists endure, Tyrannosaur is just as much about the light at the end of the tunnel that Joseph and Anna find through their friendship with each other; one that is their only hope of breaking the cycle.
As a result, Tyrannosaur becomes one of the most moving, honest and believable love stories that has hit the big screen in a long, long time. There may not be any sexuality or intimacy between its two protagonists, but their relationship is so meaningful and important to the characters that their love for one another radiates through every frame.
Having such strong characters in Joseph and Hannah is partly due to the outstanding writing by Paddy Considine who explores them with such depth that by the time Tyrannosaur reaches its climax you’ll feel like you know them as well as your best friends. Furthermore, though it would be easy to loathe Joseph for his often despicable behavior or find frustration through Hannah’s naïve forgiveness of her husband early on, Considine treats his protagonists with such sympathy that their journey is one that the viewers become quickly invested in.
However, the real driving forces behind the emotional impact of Tyrannosaur come from its two lead actors Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman. The former demonstrates a vulnerability behind his stern face and rough exterior that is engaging throughout while the latter, in undoubtedly the best performance by an actress in 2011, displays such kindness and innocence that the sequences of domestic abuse become heartbreaking to endure. Both should, in a perfect world, be nominated for Oscars this year.
In every respect, Tyrannosaur is a work of cinema that will leave your jaw on the floor. From its beautiful yet bleak aesthetic and stunning performances to its honest writing and genuine artistry, Paddy Considine has delivered a masterpiece of a character drama that is fully deserving of the awards and accolades it has received thus far.