Recently Hollywood and the various film industries across the globe have seen an upsurge in the amount of on-screen performers who are taking a break from acting in front of the camera to instead take control from behind it. Paddy Considine, the star of 'This is England' and 'Dead Man's Shoes,' is now a member of this increasingly growing club with his first feature-film debut 'Tyrannosaur'. Written and Directed by Considine, this is an uncompromising debut film from the former photographer, which examines the destructive effects of violence and aggressive behaviour on the lives of two different individuals who are drawn together through their developing friendship.
Joseph (Peter Mullan) is a lonely, cynical, and belligerent working class man. He spends his days drinking alone in the Pub and gambling in the local bookmakers where his only friends reside. Violent and abusive outbursts govern his existence thereby creating a solitary creature who acts on instinct rather than reasoning. However, Joseph's life changes when he meets and befriends Hannah (Olivia Colman), a local Christian woman who is constantly being verbally and physically abused by her sadistic husband James (Eddie Marsan). Both tortured souls, they find solace in each other's lives and develop a friendship which transcends their misgivings.
'Tyrannosaur' is an uncompromising, and at times, difficult film to watch as the characters' lives are laid bare for the whole audience to observe. Joseph responds to problematic situations through the use of his fists, while Hannah simply acts out of fear and denial. Both Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman give fantastic performances; Mullan is initially a brutish, vagrant looking male who can't naturally become entwined in society, but as the film develops, empathy begins to grow for a man who accepts his short-comings and the fact that he may never be able to overcome them. With humanity arising slowly from his dishevelled face through his relationship with the young, neighbourhood boy Sam (Samuel Bottomley).
While Colman's striking performance, which is far-cry away from her role on the hit British comedy series 'Peep Show,' shows a woman who is conflicted in all manner of her beliefs. Her religious beliefs give her the naivety to believe that her husband can change, while her heart knows that he will only stop hurting her when her beatings become fatal. This is most notable in the scene where James breaks down in tears at her feet after striking out at Hannah, as she cradles his head he constantly professes his love for her repeating the phrase "it won't happen again, you know it won't happen again." Hannah constantly reaffirms his worries saying that she does love him, but as she lowers his head, the camera observes her changing emotions as the audience is shown that Hannah is clearly not a woman in love with James, but instead she is simply afraid of him.
Considine's first directorial effort is certainly a competent effort, he never attempts to direct the audience's attention too far from the script or the two central performances at hand, but this itself is the film's primary flaw. While it is captivating and emotionally unsettling, it is also a narrative which is not uncommon in modern British cinema (or known to some as 'miserable British cinema'), and it portrays the same judgements and ideals as many of its predecessors did before without providing anything new to the sub-genre at hand, especially in the culmination of the sub-plot involving the young boy Sam and his neglectful mother and boyfriend.
Despite its unoriginality in the narrative's conclusive mediation, the film still manages to evoke a strong emotional response from the viewer through its combination of horrifying visuals and fragile performances from the two lead British actors, as Paddy Considine begins his feature film journey with a solid and respectable character portrait of two broken individuals.