Directorial debuts are rarely as brutal or furious as Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur. The reasoning behind that title becomes apparent late in the piece, but even if no explanation was given, it perfectly evokes the ferociousness of its lead character. Peter Mullan stars as Joseph; we’re introduced to him in the middle of a blind rage, during which he accidentally (or rather, uncontrollably) kicks his dog to death. Joseph temporarily feels remorse, but it isn’t long before his insatiable hatred for everyone resurfaces, even after the buzz of alcohol has worn away. The only person who doesn’t send him into a baseball-bat toting frenzy is Christian shop worker Hannah (Olivia Colman). She treats him with kindness; an act Joseph can barely fathom considering his abrasive personality. However, after discovering the horrible truth about her home life with abusive husband James (Eddie Marsan), Joseph realises that to Hannah he’s merely the lesser of two evils, and maybe that’s as close to a good person he’ll ever be.
Tyrannosaur is a movie about compromise, which is ironic considering Considine’s inability to compromise as a director (his camera does not shy away from the shocking moments). It’s about the compromises Joseph must make; even though he reveals he’s just ‘not a good person’, he might be the best person for Hannah. It’s about the compromises Hannah fails to make; when simple prayer can’t save her, she thinks she’ll find her salvation with some less-than-holy actions, and must deal with the consequences. Mullan and Colman put it all on the line for Considine; also rare for a first time writer/director to achieve from his cast, but perhaps his ability to sympathise as a fellow actor helped them, Cassavettes-style, to lower their guards. Marsan similarly gives a bold performance (he always does), but his character almost crosses the line of believability. Considine seems to have gone a little over the top in writing James; relishing his outrageous awfulness. Even though the film traffics in inexplicable human cruelty, this character seems more like a Bond villain than a socio-realist depiction of a violent husband.
Not a pleasant viewing experience by any stretch of the imagination, and perhaps a little too on-the-nose at times, Tyrannosaur is nonetheless a visceral roar of a debut feature from Considine. As an actor, you can’t take your eyes off of him. Good to see that he’s got that electricity behind the camera too.
Tyrannosaur is now showing exclusively at the Cinema Nova in Melbourne.