It’s a violent place, the cinema.
Film is a media that’s made for capturing things that move dynamically. It’s why slapstick flourished in the early days and why CGI monsters continue to slug it out and spill their shiny pixels across our screens from one opening weekend to the next.
Tyrannosaur is a study of a different kind of violence. Deftly handled by actor-turned-director Paddy Considine and centred around a man called Joseph.
Everybody has met a ‘Joseph’. Or at least will have crossed the road or sat at the other end of the pub to avoid a grizzled and angry daytime drunk – those seemingly rough and nasty men with one hand on their pint and the other hanging close to their self-destruct button.
Tyrannosaur invites you to spend an hour or so with such a character, and while that’s a prospect not one everyone will take up, those who do will be glad they did.
Joseph (Peter Mullan) lost the lid on his anger a long time ago and, as it constantly simmers, little is safe. From mouthy pool players to noisy neighbours, and post office windows to tin sheds – plenty of dogs are metaphorically and literally kicked.
And it is following a bout of such rage that Joseph’s world clatters into that of Hannah (Olivia Colman), a meek Christian charity shop worker.
Her with her bible. Him with his bile.
Immediately dismissing her as a middle class ‘goody-goody’, he’s scathing of her offer to pray for him. Watching the verbal abuse land on Hannah’s face is just the first of many times your heart goes out to her.
Slowly, among the bric-a-bric and dead man’s trousers, these brittle people become friends as Hannah’s life is slowly revealed to be the antithesis of the cosy existence that Joseph first assumes it to be.
But if you think Joseph is a bit pissy, you should meet her husband, James…
Written and directed by Paddy, Tyrannosaur is based on his Bafta award-winning short film ‘Dog Altogether’. This is a man who knows about actors and telling stories and with a 1st class degree in photography, knows how to swing a camera too. While Tyrannosaur’s stomping ground is a forlorn North Country housing estate, it’s not all wobbly-cameras and grainy grimness either. There’s some beautifully cinematic camera work that at times gets so close to these characters that their fragility is completely exposed.
Peter Mullan brings a nuanced sensitivity to the raging beast of Joseph, making him less of a bad man and more of a man who does bad things; Eddie Marsan simmers as the real bad guy; but it is sitcom stalwart Olivia Colman who delivers the emotional punch in the guts that no-one can see coming.
She is just bloody good in this and deserves every accolade and award that will get flung her way.
Although it’s the main cast who put in the hardest work, the inclusion of Joseph’s affable drinking buddy, Tommy (Ned Dennehy), the local lout, Bod (Paul Popplewell) and innocent observer Samuel (the young Samuel Bottomley) help to round off this believable world and add some lighter moments to the unfolding drama.
Much has been written about the film being a ‘tough watch’. Though more is implied than is shown, there are some scenes that make for uncomfortable viewing, but the film rewards you for sitting through them. With a simple story and a small budget, Paddy has created something towering and magnificent, so dynamic and moving that it will linger with you long after the empty spectacle of any CGI monsters ever could.