Runtime – 92 mins
Year – 2011
Country – UK
Certificate – 18
Director – Paddy Considine
Cast – Peter Mullan, Eddie Marsan, Olivia Coleman
It may not be in danger of being ‘forgotten’ just yet as it was only released in 2011, but even the concept of Tyrannosaur drifting from the contemporary consciousness is unacceptable.
The film is a reincarnation of a short story by the same name written by writer/director Paddy Considine. Considine was previously better known for his role as an actor, with performances in films such as The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) and Blitz (2011), but more notably for his work alongside another British writer/director; Shane Meadows in A Room for Romeo Brass (1999) and Dead Man Shoes (2004). Considine has clearly been influenced by his time working with Meadows, and so his approach to directing and his chosen subject material reflects Meadows’ interest in the harsh reality of life in modern Britain.
Tyrannosaur is the story of two people who unwillingly rescue each other from a life of pain and suffering. Joseph (Mullan) is a lonely widower who once called his wife ‘Tyrannosaur’ before she died of diabetes after continuing to feed the illness which was killing her. His detest for life leaves him only to drink away his benefit money and channel his anger into violent outbursts directed at whatever is closest to him.
When Joseph picks a fight with three young men, he has a flash of sanity whilst pinning one against a wall and runs from the chaos he has started. He hides in a nearby charity shop and is approached by employee, Hannah (Coleman).
Though on the surface it appears Joseph and Hannah couldn’t be more different, as the film examines Hannah’s personal life, it becomes clear that both Joseph and Hannah are in desperate need of human compassion and joy.
Considine is focussed on examining the British lives which exist in a whirlwind of catastrophe. It’s not kitchen sink and it’s not pointing the finger at any member of British society, instead it is a study of two incredible characters who have lost everything. Considine juxtaposes the presence of terror in Hannah’s daily life with the gaping absence Joseph suffers. Whereas Joseph’s loss is visual, Hannah’s loss is a loss within herself and at every point the audience is dragged into the most uncomfortable and disturbing events endured by both characters as they come to terms with the lives they have somehow entered into.
When the two characters find each other, the reconciliation is unbelievably powerful. It’s not a film to weep at, but instead it will have you shaking at the utter despair and violence displayed on screen. The happier moments are more moments of relief, like those in a horror movie, rather than catharsis.
The beauty of the film lies in Considine’s ability take a snapshot of a moment, a place and a struggle in British life. For those in the audience, there is enough to relate to that even though the actions may not reflect the life they know; there is a part of them which knows it exists. Considine doesn’t want to squeeze emotion from the audience but wants them to truly invest in the goodness which illuminates from both Joseph and Hannah once they face their own darkness.
Tyrannosaur is a film that will imprint on you as soon as you begin to watch it. At times it feels like self-harm as the raw violence and ruthless story can be painful to participate in. The performances from the always outstanding Mullan and Peep Show regular Coleman are profoundly realistic.
Coleman is a revelation and has won numerous awards for her role, including Best Actress at the Empire UK Awards, British Independent Film Awards and Chicago International Film Festival.
Considine’s film is so important because it is an example of British filmmaking at its absolute best. He combines a story influenced by British life, with the best British acting talent and directs a film which follows in the footsteps of renowned British directors with hints of Meadows, Ken Loach and Mike Leigh.
If you haven’t given 92 minutes of your life to Tyrannosaur previously, then I cannot think of one reason why you shouldn’t. If you have, then don’t forget it. Watching it again is a reminder of the true power of filmmaking and the possibility of being entirely trapped within it.