Wednesday, 12 October 2011


Tyrannosaur is the actor, Paddy Considine’s first film as a director. As a novice, he handles his raw, confrontational material with considerable visual assurance and sensitivity. For example, Considine shows considerable editorial confidence when moving the action from manicured housing closes with expensive cars guarding each door to the decay of the estate, where staffys strain and snarl at the lead. Each location is highly realised and successfully mirrors the psychological territory of the characters. “It’s not social realism, whatever that means,” Considine has admitted in a recent interview, “but I think it dares to be quite truthful in its own version of what truth is, if that makes sense.”

Joseph (Peter Mullan) is an aggressive, violent alcoholic from a decaying Leeds council estate who seeks refuge in a charity shop run by a married, Christian woman called Hannah (Olivia Colman). A relationship is established based on their unspoken understanding of each other’s woundedness. This understanding will lead to tragic consequences.

Using the familiar narrative device of the chance meeting of two people from opposing social classes releases questions of surprising depth and rigour: are the glib assumptions that we make about others an attempt to shore up our own prejudices? Should the sadist be forgiven and, if so, what would that forgiveness look like? Why do anger and violence lurk in the hinterlands of masculinity? In a demoralised environment, does prayer still retain some resonance? Are there people who by their actions place themselves beyond redemption? Why is man’s desire for affection and love so resilient? How do you explain the mystery of goodness in a world so prone to evil?

Considine is more interested in the questions than the answers. But there are answers and these are channelled through the two central performances that capture the change of an emotional key with the slightest shift of an expression. Peter Mullan’s performance embodies all the impotent rage peculiar to some men than can erupt in acts of gratuitous violence. But, beneath the machismo, baseball bat wielding posturing , Mullan’s rounded interpretation reveals Joseph to be a man who is looking for some sort of gentleness and acceptance in a world where doors are continually slammed in his face. This gentleness he encounters in Hannah played with intense, raw power by Olivia Colman. But her facade of sing-song cheerfulness masks the fact that she is on the receiving end of male violence. She is looking for a sanctuary where her own wounds may heal. I predict Colman will win awards for this brave, unflinchingly honest performance.

Tyrannosaur is not without flaws, but these are imperfections in what is, otherwise, a little gem of rare authenticity. On this auspicious form, I can’t wait to see what Considine produces in the future.

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