Tyrannosaur (2011) – Review

An impressive debut from director Paddy Considine, who proves he is just as good behind the camera as he is in front of it. Tyrannosaur is a film that will leave you devastated and heartbroken – 8/10

Dir. Paddy Considine

Based on a the award-winning short, Dog Altogether, actor turned director Paddy Considine teams up with Olivia Coleman and Peter Mullen to give us Tyrannosaur. It’s a film that will rip your heart out and throw it back at you without hesitation. The subject matter of violence and rage has been well documented in film before but Paddy Considine delivers it here with so much emotional weight, highlighting the decay it can cause in people’s lives, leading to self-destruction.

No one exemplifies this more than Joseph (Peter Mullan) – a middle-aged man, living in Leeds, who is addicted to rage. He seems incapable of controlling his anger and this inevitably results in nasty situations and takes him to some dark places. Most of the time he wastes the days away in the pub, drinking and occasionally visiting what remains of his friends: a man dying of cancer, an Irish drunk and his neighbor, and a young boy named Sam (Samuel Bottomley) who frequently talks to him as he passes by. In truth, however, Joseph is alone and his life is slipping through his fingers. Plagued by this unhealthy addiction to violence, Joseph has nowhere to go and nobody to turn to.

His chance of redemption comes when he storms into a charity shop to hide (behind a clothing rail of all places!) and fate deals him a hand as he meets a devout Christian charity worker called Hannah (Olivia Coleman). Despite Joseph’s clear contempt for Hannah’s middle-class lifestyle, he finds himself returning to her shop on a daily basis. A bond forms between the two but their relationship is not a result of Hannah’s charity. Tyrannosaur, thankfully, is not about the middle class’ fixation on the misery of the poor. Neither is it a film that wishes to be uplifting, not so crudely at least. Instead, the bond between Joseph and Hannah comes from a shared loneliness, for Hannah also has a dark secret which she is battling. Her husband, James (Eddie Marsan), is a violent man who is also plagued with rage, but unlike Joseph he has a single victim he releases this upon, Hannah.

It is no overstatement to assert that the acts of violence and violation that Hannah is forced to endure are among the most harrowing you will ever see on-screen. It left me wincing and dismayed; but it is Olivia Coleman’s performance that takes the emotions of anger, disgust and horror and transcends them to heartbreak. To say her performance was a treat would feel inappropriate in the context of the film but who could have foreseen that an actor mostly known for her roles in comedy (Peep Show) would be the standout performer in a serious and gritty kitchen sink drama.

Tyrannosaur, however, isn’t merely a relentless barrage of misery as some would have you believe. There are moments in the film, like flickers of sunlight, that offer respite from the gloominess. The odd bit of humour can be found in the dialogue and the central romance epitomises the idea of finding hope in the darkest of places. If there is an aspect of the film that sparks inspiration for people, then it is this.

Ultimately however, Tyrannosaur is a piece of social realism. Paddy Considine has regularly argued against this, preferring people to just see it as a piece of cinema, but it is not dissimilar from the works of other British directors like Ken Loach and Shane Medows who specialise in social realism. In one sense and despite the quality of the film, this disappoints me. I would love to start seeing some variety in British Cinema because British films have been championing this style for decades.

Nevertheless, whilst Tyrannosaur may be yet another edition to the bleak, miserablist dramas of British cinema, Considine has managed to produce one of the better films of the year thanks to some strong performances from Peter Mullan, Eddie Marsan and above all, Olivia Coleman.

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