Joseph (Peter Mullan) is leading a chronically violent and self-destructive existence when he meets Hannah (Olivia Colman) a mild-natured catholic charity shop worker with her own secreted suffering.
You may be forgiven for initially thinking that Tyrannosaur’s set-up will take you on the uplifting journey of two lost souls who find each other thus find themselves in the most unlikely of places.
However, it won’t be long before you realise that Considine allows you no such comfort.
The beauty in his approach lies in subverting both generic and industrial expectations. This is undeniably a British film. It seems to embody the social realism synonyms with gritty British verisimilitude. However, it strives to and succeeds at becoming more. There’s a sense of hyperrealism that manages to avoid fetishising the impoverished northern landscapes and the ‘haunting’ lives of its inhabitants; it escapes the trappings of poverty porn.
A frequent collaborator with Shane Meadows and a self-professed fan of Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and Alan Clarke, Considine’s first feature project (extended from his equally impressive short, Dog Altogether) is a solid declaration of a new, subtler shift in British cinema.
There seems to be an argument that Tyrannosaurs brutality repels the viewer that somehow the nausea and voyeuristic discomfort you experience when you are trapped in Joseph and Hannah’s universe is exploitative and detracts from a potentially strong narrative.
The truth is, it is an abrasive film to watch, it hurts you and it may even leave you with a sour taste you can’t shake off for hours (in my case, about 24) but who said that cinema had to be comfortable? In fact can’t that be one of its functions, to leave you vacant and vulnerable? Considine’s violence and peril are neither manipulative, nor vulgar, they just are.
Without doubt, a host of provocative yet capably controlled performances contribute heavily to the film’s success. Mullan’s character, Joseph walks the fine line between a man who is guilty of some truly despicable acts yet seems to warrant empathy and defence.
Colman skilfully handles the compound characterisation of Hannah; who is not your archetypal damsel in distress nor is she a two-dimensional victim of male tyranny, there seems to be something more unsettling and painful to experience here.
The somewhat tragic, occasionally elusive subplots exploring the claustrophobic world of young Samuel and the death of Joseph’s friend are successfully woven into the central plot. Whilst, these supporting characters help frame this world further, neither one of them offers some thwarting exposition; they don’t all have to serve an explicit purpose.
Evocatively shot, painfully sincere and quietly told, Considine’s Tyrannosaur is an intimate and visceral experience that may tarnish your own reality – but maybe that’s ok.