SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL: Actor Paddy Considine makes his directorial debut with this intense and unsettling drama about a lonely man with a violent streak.
Joseph (Peter Mullan) is an angry, aggressive Irish widower stalking the pubs and streets of some bleak quarter of post-industrial England. His impulse to violence is directed against man and animal alike, and there is some evidence that his late wife, who died of cancer, was also the occasional subject of his attention.

Hannah (Olivia Colman) works in the local charity store, is married to James (Eddie Marsan) and lives on an estate in the better part of town. Joseph stumbles into the charity store after a dust up and Hannah prays for him. Initially, he responds to her ministry with abuse but is drawn back to the shop where he gradually learns that Hannah is a battered wife.

Tyrannosaur is the story of these two broken, intersecting lives.

The tone of the film is unrelentingly tense. Director Paddy Considine does a marvellous job of aligning Joseph’s deeply troubled psychological state with the general mood pervading the town. Joseph’s neighbour is a young boy (Samuel Bottomley) routinely banished to play in the cold, wet streets by his mother and her skinhead boyfriend whose maltreated bull terrier is the subject of the film’s climax.

This is a place of deep communal resentment and deprivation where petty crime and violence are life’s currency. Joseph hates it and he hates himself for being a product of it. Some part of him craves redemption and release and it is to the warmth of Hannah, and perhaps even her unsteady belief in God, that he is inexorably drawn.

Considine’s deft direction of this, his first feature film (based on his earlier short, Dog Altogether) finds the right balance between dramatic tension and allowing the fine cast room to move. Mullan, Colman and Marsan are all superb and the support cast bring tender and gritty performance in turn.

The cinematography captures the brooding mood of the kind of wasteland typical of post-Thatcher Britain. This is no easy film to watch, but it is a powerful example of a film genre the Brits do better than most. Thoroughly recommended.

Director: Paddy Considine
Cinematography: Erik Wilson
Stars Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman, Eddie Marsan and Samuel Bottomley
UK, 2011, 91 mins

Sydney Film Festival
June 8 - 19

For more festival coverage see our dedicated SFF mini-site.

Boris Kelly

Tuesday 14 June, 2011

About the author

Boris Kelly is a Sydney-based writer.