There is no doubting the sincerity of Paddy Considine’s feature-length directorial debut: certainly the Considine-penned script is almost grotesque in its moments of clarity. Despite this, or indeed directly due to this, Considine’s film has been accused of appealing to a comfy middle-class, depicting brutal working-class stereotypes almost as a form of voyeuristic amusement.
Arguably, Considine’s film involves itself in political and social discourse through its depiction of problems supposedly endemic within this society. Importantly these issues are not self-contained, but rather leak out across social classes: the most heinous crimes depicted in the film take place within a comfortably middle-class home.
Joseph (Peter Mullan) finds himself at times working himself into a powerful, maddened frenzy, a frenzy often exacerbated by his frequent alcohol indulgence. Considine’s direction honestly and often graphically depicts the consequences of Joseph’s anger. At the film’s opening, Joseph, angered by an altercation, kicks his dog to death. Destroying an animal that he loved, and that faithfully loved him in return. Nothing is safe nor sacred from Joseph’s anger, and his self-realisation often comes too late, unable to prevent his committing acts of violence and criminality.
After one such event of wanton abuse, Joseph takes shelter in a Christian charity shop. Hannah (Olivia Colman), working there, offers both a cup of tea and her prayers, praying audibly to an increasingly distraught Joseph.
Joseph, much like the viewer may be inclined to do, believes that Hannah, who he learns lives in the wealthy ‘Manor Estates’, is both ignorant and naive: how could she know of his problems? As it quickly transpires, Hannah, despite her apparent happy demeanour, is suffering under a verbally and physically abusive husband (a chilling Eddie Marsan).
Many have commented on the relentless, horrific nature of the film, certainly Considine’s direction never shies away from its depiction of debasement: although some acts, seemingly deemed too much to bear witness too, are left for us to learn verbally. Certainly the film depicts a bleak reality, but for me its bleakness demonstrates a form of social realism. Whilst we are left with a sense of hope during the film’s final moments, there are no Hollywood endings here: characters are forced to deal with the consequences of their actions.
The cast are all wonderful, Marsan is deeply terrifying and Mullan’s Joseph is complex enough for us to both damn his acts whilst empathising with his current state. For me, however, it is Colman that stands out in her brutally honest, hugely brave portrayal of Hannah. Known previously for her comedic roles in such comedies as Peep Show, Colman’s dramatic abilities are a revelation. Her gentle moments of faux joviality as she greets a customer with all-too-apparent bruising are heart-breaking in their futility. Colman provides the much needed emotional centre to the film; there are no ambiguities with her, we simply feel empathy for her. This is not to say her character is any less complex than Mullan’s Joseph, certainly her relationship with her husband is fraught with complexities, but rather her Hannah evokes our sympathies more easily.
Undoubtedly Tyrannosaur is a harrowing experience, depicting varying inhumane acts. Despite this (certainly little to recommend itself for some viewers), Considine’s film should surely be viewed by all those who feel fit to experience the often visceral nature of the film.