Director: Paddy Considine
Cast: Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman, Eddie Marsan
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You never know what to expect from an actor’s directorial debut. It might be a quirky comedy, or a tender romance. Or it might be a harrowing drama that tears you to pieces. Following in the steps of Gary Oldman’s Nil By Mouth, Tyrannosaur is the latter. And it’s one of the best British films of recent years.
Joseph (Mullan) is an angry man. He lives alone, drinks alone, and hates the kids next door almost as much as he hates himself. Then, after his last friend leaves, he gets a shot at redemption when he bumps into Hannah (Colman).
Hannah’s a good-natured lady who works in a charity shop. She sells second hand jumpers by day, praying with those who ask and offering cups of tea. Then, she goes home and gets beaten by her husband (Marsan).
As Joseph tries to help her escape from this domestic prison, Hannah’s life looks to be improving. But Joseph is no better. A man happy to wield a baseball bat against a child and demolish a shed with his bare hands, Joseph is definitely not a nice guy – and Peter Mullan embraces that, creating a dark anti-hero who demands our sympathy. “God loves you. You’re God’s child,” smiles Hannah from behind her charity shop counter. “God ain’t my fucking daddy,” shoots back Mullan. “My daddy was a cunt. He knew he was a cunt. God still thinks he’s God. No one’s told him otherwise.”
It’s a harsh world to digest, but Paddy Considine makes it easy to swallow. His direction is as quiet as a mouse. He creeps up on his characters, catching them almost as if by accident, picking out the pores on their skin. There are no visual tricks here, or flashy twists: this is just a film about two people life has kicked the crap out of. And it’s breathtaking to witness.
Keeping his camera elegant, but unnoticed, Considine works with his cast to draw out some incredible performances, full of natural menace and volatile silence. Of course, Peter Mullan and the ever-brilliant Eddie Marsan are both superb at being cruel, but the real star is Olivia Colman’s bruised and battered housewife – a breakout role that has since seen her appear in everything from Broadchurch and Fleabag to Flowers and The Night Manager.
Following her straight-faced comedic turns in Peep Show and Twenty Twelve, Colman here uses her deadpan delivery to devastating effect, firing out barbed insults and scurrying back into herself over and over again. Then, she cracks, collapsing to the floor in a crumpled heap of tears. For a full minute, there’s nothing to look at except one woman’s raw anguish pouring onto the living room carpet. It’s the most emotional on-screen breakdown since Annette Bening in American Beauty (that it didn’t win her a BAFTA remains a mystery).
As for Considine’s script, it’s almost impossible to comment – you’ll be too absorbed to notice the clever pacing, or the fact that the happiest scene in the whole film is a funeral. It’s an upsetting watch that almost makes Mike Leigh and Ken Loach look like the Chuckle Brothers, but Tyrannosaur is an engaging and beautiful experience. By the end, you won’t even realise that you’ve spent 90 minutes sobbing quietly to yourself in a darkened room.
Tyrannosaur is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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