Fuck Paddy Considine. As if it wasn’t enough to be an acclaimed dramatic actor, he then has to go and prove his comedy chops by stealing Hot Fuzz out from under Pegg & Frost and now, the gods sod ‘im, he’s directed a powerful, compelling and unflinching debut feature film. What a prick.
Considine has not taken the typical easy route for his feature film debut. When a lot of first-time directors are cutting their teeth on genre or comedy fare, Considine has instead plumped for a real, emotionally intense dramatic film. It is a remarkably strong film anchored by two incredible central performances. Peter Mullan is Joseph, a man with anger and violence in his heart; the opening scene has him kicked out of a bar and kicking his dog to death in a drunken rage. He’s spiraling down towards his own inevitable destruction, when he finds Christian op-shop worker Hannah (Olivia Coleman). Their first exchange is terse and devastatingly blunt from Joseph’s side, but he comes back obviously seeking something – redemption? To turn his life around? And while he believes Hannah is nothing more than a tourist from her better life, with the perfect house in an upper-middle class suburb, the reality of her situation is even darker than his. Her husband is an abusive, vindictive sleazebag and Eddie Marsan, with his curly hair and boyish face, has something cold and cruel behind his eyes.
Considine doesn’t pull any of his punches with the reveal of Hannah’s life, or events in Joseph’s. Joseph is not an entirely sympathetic character, but you can see something in him and Mullan (probably better known for his role as Yaxley in Harry Potter) is a truly magnetic presence. He’s rough and hard with devastating insults rolling off his Scottish brogue like water down a mountain; his violence isn’t just in his fists. But there’s something better hiding beneath it all. Coleman, who I know better as the double-entendre loving police-lady-officer from Hot Fuzz, is quietly compelling as a woman hiding a life of fear and hurt beneath a cheery exterior. It’s a role that could have easily been a cliché, but Coleman and Considine are no idiots and bring Hannah to crushed, breathing life. When she breaks down, Coleman does it with such raw, naked and brutal emotion it quite literally (actually!) shook me.
Considine has brought a maturity and confidence that you may not expect from a first-time feature but, if you know anything about his previous work, it can hardly be a surprise. And, after some of the recent films I saw at the Festival, it was a pleasure to have a low budget, debut feature film with thoughtfully constructed shots and a camera that doesn’t jitter and shake all over the place. Tyrannosaur is a brave, mature film with a strong enough story that it doesn’t need these cheap, distracting camera tricks to make it seem more “real”.