You know you’re in for a difficult journey when the first scene of the film features an angry, drunken man killing his dog. 2011’s Tyrannosaur is Paddy Considine’s (Dead Man’s Shoes, Hot Fuzz) directorial debut. It’s about a widowed man named Joseph (Peter Mullan, whose character in this film is like a pseudo-Joe ten years later from My Name is Joe; naturally, it’s the same actor!) who lives alone and has an anger problem. As his world starts to fall apart, he tries to bring it down chaotically, but before he can completely destroy himself and affect everyone him, he meets a very special person. Hannah, played by Olivia Colman, is a kind hearted woman who puts on the façade of a dedicated Christian to mask the horrific abuse and humiliation that she faces on a daily basis from her sicko husband. Their paths meet, and while at first his reaction towards her is incendiary, they begin to spend more time together and learn to appreciate each other’s company. It seems that they are connected through their isolation and hurt.
Despite his hostility (forever epitomized by that horrific first scene), there is still humanity in the depths of his soul, and she brings out that humanity in him. He also appreciates the little boy Samuel across the street, who is harassed by his mother’s loser chav boyfriend and his pit bull. Joseph is not a truly likeable person after what we’ve seen him do, but we still feel for him. His demonic actions are countered by his affectionate feelings, which he tries to repress with anger and hate.
Apparently Considine based the story on his own experiences growing up. The lower income setting in Leeds provides a stirring atmosphere for the story, and the experience is further enhanced by great acting from all members. Considine is clearly indebted to the kitchen sink realism films of Ken Loach (Sweet Sixteen, Kes), and to a lesser extent his friend Shane Meadows (This is England), but really his film comes into a category of its own. The seemingly familiar characters become much more complex through the exploration of their emotionality and pain. The metaphorical title of the film provides some interesting insights about character behaviour and the nature of their being. While it’s a disturbing and depressing ride, Tyrannosaur is an excellent film and beautiful in its darkness. Considine is clearly an actor and director with remarkable talent and gifted storytelling abilities, and if you can stomach the horror, then this movie is absolutely worth watching.