Tyrannosaur is the directorial debut of British actor Paddy Considine. Based on a short film written and directed by Considine called Dog Altogether, it brings back the same actors, Peter Mullen and Olivia Colman but goes into more depth about their lives in the Midlands. The story is loosely based on Considine’s upbringing but is in not autobiographical. One third of the films $750,000 budget was provided in the form of a grant from the UK Film Council. It only took $240,000 at the box office, but was recently nominated for a BAFTA.
Joseph (Mullen) is an unemployed widower whose life is dictated and shaped by acts of violence and moments of anger that seem out of his control. After kicking his own dog to death after a moment of uncontrolled rage, he sets about to turn his life around. After another incident of violence in a pub, he runs to hide in a local charity shop and meets Hannah (Colman), a Christian woman who tries to help. The two get to know each other and Peter discovers that Hannah is in an abusive relationship with her husband James (Eddie Marsan) and both try to help each other get past their damaged pasts.
Tyrannosaur is clearly a film directed by an actor. The characters in it are given room to breath and to express themselves through actions as well as words and there’s very little exposition. This helps to create a realistic portrayal of their lives and we as an audience feel like we’re in the room with them. They behave in a believable fashion in certain circumstances and both leads are simply incredible. Mullen has always been an actor of the highest order and here he really engages his darkside to bring the broken and melancholy Peter to life. It’s an amazing turn, but one that just goes to highlight how good Olivia Colman is.
Best known to audiences as Mark’s girlfriend Sophie in Channel 4’s The Peep Show, Colman’s career has been heavily comedy-based. However in Tyrannosaur Considine is able to get an utterly breath-taking and heart-breaking performance. It is rare to have such a raw and compelling character who is also sympathetic and caring without the need for melodrama or over-sentiment. It is a breakout performance and followed closely by her appearance in The Iron Lady leads me to think we’ll be seeing more of Olivia Colman although it seems impossible to think that any performance going forward will be as amazing as this one.
Tyrannosaur is both hard-going, but also strangely warming as a viewing experience. The audience find themelves exposed to a violent and unpleasant series of characters, yet somehow in among the terrible experiences, two people are able to find hope and strength from each other.