Tyrannosaur is very much in the British working-class miserablist tradition in the sense that it is full of masculine fury and the women who take the brunt of it, and if this does not sound an attractive proposition, it’s because it isn’t, and never is, but, as far as these unattractive propositions go, this is powerfully affecting. I would also add that if, in the upcoming months, the actress Olivia Colman does not win every award going for her performance as a nice Christian lady with something to hide, I will be surprised, stunned, amazed, astonished and incredulous. I will also be dumbfounded, and flabbergasted, and will eat my hat, but not my thesaurus which, over the years, has proved handy, convenient and opportune.
This is the writing and directorial debut of Paddy Considine (the actor who is otherwise best known as Shane Meadows’s leading man) and although this is set in Leeds it is, he has said, an attempt to understand his own particular upbringing on a council estate in Burton-on-Trent. I have no reference points when it comes to films like this — the most brutal thing I was ever subjected to as a child was being made to carry on at piano long after it was evident I had no talent — but this entirely brings you into its world, as a good film should, and does so straight out of the gate, albeit shockingly.
It opens with a man leaving a pub and, in a drunken rage, kicking his own dog to death. I know; it’s vile. It’s something you don’t want to see. Why bother? Because, at the same time, you are interested in this: how is the film going to find the humanity in this character, as we know it must? How are we going to be made to care about him? How?
The man is Joseph (Peter Mullan), a widower and alcoholic who simmers in his own rage and is given to eruptions of violence, with or without provocation.