This is British cinema which has its roots firmly in that type of oppressive, downbeat kitchen sink drama which first gained prominence in the 60’s. It’s brought bang up to date here, with a steadfast refusal to pull any emotional punches. For those who have the stomach for miserablist drama (granted, this isn’t everyone’s idea of an evening out at the cinema), the film offers a gruelling, yet ultimately cathartic experience.
Mullen is Joseph, a jittery misanthropic alcoholic who has recently been widowed and seems to spend most of his waking hours in the local boozer, wallowing in a perpetual state of anger and loathing of the world around him. His world collides with that of Hannah’s (Peepshow’s Olivia Colman), a meek and repressed employee at the local charity shop. She’s a devout Christian who lives under content fear of her unbearably jealous and volatile husband James (Eddie Marsan).
The dysfunctional odd couple slowly begin to find some kind of connection and peace with each other, albeit in a platonic (and at times) strained manner, but it isn’t long however before the forces around them conspire to put an end to any chance of emotional stability.
A number of gifted actors to step behind the camera in the past have managed to draw out some indelible performances from their leads (a glowing example is Gary Oldman’s Nil By Mouth, a film which Tyrannosaur shares some DNA with) and Considine is no exception. He knows how to get the very best from his two main stars, and both are truly outstanding. Mullan has tread similar ground in the past with Ken Loach’s My Name Is Joe, but the disturbing behaviour of his character from the outset and the constant self admission that he’s far from what could be considered a nice human being, sets this role apart from any previous variations in his work. It’s to both Mullan’s and his director’s credit that the audience can still form some kind of empathy for such a troubled individual as the film progresses.
As fantastic as Mullan is, it’s Colman who is truly the revelation here. This is an abrupt, devastating u-turn for the performer, who is best known for lighter, comedic knockabout stuff. She’s heartbreaking as Hannah, a woman who has tried to live a virtuous life and through no fault of her own has been constantly downtrodden and abused. She goes where many actresses would fear to tread and offers a truly gut-wrenching portrayal, which is incredibly difficult to watch at times (Considine tends to mainly frame his actors in unflinching close-ups, adding to the sometimes unbearably bleak atmosphere). Marsan, yet again, does another fine job of playing a truly repugnant, wholly unsympathetic character, and the tension created by his mere presence in a scene is palpable.
This is another fantastic string to the bow for Warp films. Having established themselves as the go-to company for filmmakers with bold, uncompromising visions (their Australian offshoot has another equally hard-hitting slice of suburban malaise in the form of Snowtown, which is due for release on these shores next month), Considine’s film can sit proudly alongside the work of labelmate (and frequent collaborator) Shane Meadows.
During the publicity trail for Tyrannosaur Considine has repeatedly expressed an interest in concentrating more on directing in the future. It would be a shame to see him slip away from screens as a performer, but on the evidence of the film he’s made here, he may forge an equally impressive career behind the camera.