As far as directorial debuts go, Paddy Considine could have done far worse. In fact he delivers quite the punch with Tyrannosaur.
The film opens with our protagonist, Joseph (Peter Mullan), engulfed in a fit rage and with nowhere else to direct his fury, he kicks his dog to death. Hencefourth the film does not let up, painting a frank portrayal of the isolated existence, someone like Joseph leads.
Peter Mullan deserves high praise, Joseph is violent, but when he takes his anger out upon his dog, which he admits he loved, or destroys his shed, it is because he’s attempting to channel his anger and not attack his friends, neighbours or perfect strangers. Joseph is at war, but with himself.
Hannah (Olivia Colman) who offers Joseph a cup of tea and the hand of friendship, works in a charity shop and it’s quickly established that this is a reprieve from her home and her abusive husband, James (Eddie Marsan). It is implied that Hannah has been trapped in her unhappy marriage for years and it’s quickly established that she is the victim of domestic abuse.
It is Hannah’s faith and alcohol dependency which has enabled her to cope with her awful situation, turning to God and drink for solace, when nobody else would support her. Marsan as the abusive husband, James, is repugnant and the character commits heinous atrocities against his wife, throughout the film.
As Joseph and Hannah’s relationship develops, it isn’t difficult to guess how the film might conclude and there’s a narrative thread concerning a neighbour’s child that should be spotted a mile off. The film is very bleak but come the conclusion, there is a glimmer of hope for our extremely bruised duo.
I do have one small criticism of Tyrannosaur and that’s its use of non-diegetic sound. It’s a small gripe, but personally, in places I found the soundtrack to be a little overpowering, bordering on intrusive and therefore detrimental to my immersion. This is a very minor quibble, others may well disagree, arguing that these moments offer a reprieve for the viewer. But, in my opinion Considine could have done with taking a page out of Andrea Arnold’s book, and kept to a diegetic soundtrack.
That one criticism aside and Paddy Considine has crafted something very special and both performances from Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman should be Bafta contenders. Their characters are beautifully realised and their anguish is written all over their tortured faces.
I’m pleased to report Tyrannosaur is deserving of each and every one of the accolades it has received. Not bad for a first attempt.