As one of the finest British actors of his generation, Paddy Considine’s directorial debut Tyrannosaur proves that he has the potential to be a masterful filmmaker as well.
Set in the drab pastures of Leeds, we first meet our anti-hero Joseph (Mullan) after he is thrown out of a betting shop. Drunk, disorderly and in a fit of rage, he kicks his dog to death. It’s a devastating opening scene, illustrating not only how the now companionless widower is a tormented soul, but also just how dark and distressing the following ninety minutes of Tyrannosaur will be.
Running away from another crime scene, he stumbles into a charity shop only to be greeted by an affluent woman of God, Hannah (Colman). Initially afraid, she consoles Joseph and, after a few heated exchanges, they strike up an unlikely kinship, sheltering them from their harsh living situations outside. For Joseph, it’s from his martyrdom and loneliness; and for Hannah, her turbulent marriage with an abusive and degrading husband (Marsan).
Famous for his many acting roles in Shane Meadows’ films (Dead Man’s Shoes, A Room For Romeo Brass), Considine expresses the same level of austerity in his own filmmaking. Rather than presenting a highly stylised portrait of underclass Britain, he focuses on characterisation and performance, managing to reveal three of the best performances this reviewer has seen all year. Peter Mullan (Trainspotting, Warhorse) is both enchanting and sympathetic as the hapless Joseph, whilst Eddie Marsan (Happy Go Lucky, Sherlock Holmes) invokes terror whenever his gleaming eyes and insincere grin fill the screen. Best of all, Olivia Colman (the unsung star of British comedy series Peep Show) is finally given the breakout role she deserves as Hannah. Fragile and sympathetic, she is the beacon of light amongst the darkness, leading to an inevitably devastating closing scene.
Tyrannosaur continues the social realism trend set out by the politically conscious Ken Loach and the wryly-comical Mike Leigh. It’s a story of disconnected people looking for humanity. One of the best British kitchen sink dramas of recent years, it might be relentlessly miserable, but Tyrannosaur suggests that Considine has a bright future ahead.
Dir: Paddy Considine; UK drama, 2011, 91 mins; Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman, Eddie Marsan
Premiered November 29
Playing at Grand Teatret