Have you ever thought about how well you know the people you interact with each day? Perhaps the barista at your local coffee shop. The one that knows your drink by heart and you no longer have to say, “I’ll have a tall, one pump, skinny, hazelnut latte with no foam.” Beyond that order, however, how much do you know? They look like good enough people, but within all of us hides secrets we don’t want the world to know. Innocent as some may be, they may not hurt anyone, but they’re secrets nonetheless. Some of us hide even darker truths, secrets of pain; secrets of aggression; secrets we hide from the world out of shame or embarrassment.
Paddy Considine’s feature directorial debut, Tyrannosaur, explores such secrets in a way that’s hard to watch, but packs a wallop of a punch. And as hard as it is to endure, it’s astonishing how easily it can translate to even the most innocent of lives giving it a universality I never would have seen coming after the first 30 minutes of its short, 89-minute running time.
Expanding on his 2007, BAFTA award-winning short film, Dog Altogether, Considine has written a script that explores the lives of Hannah (Olivia Colman), a Christian charity store owner, and Joseph (Peter Mullan), a man so filled with rage there’s a question mark as to just how long he’ll be able to last before he cracks entirely. When these two characters cross paths, assumptions lead to truths and even then, there are a few surprises in store.
While Tyrannosaur‘s overall theme is what really grabbed me, it would have been impossible to stick with it without the performances, primarily those from Mullan and Colman, both of which embody characters whose lives are being tested; Joseph by his inner demons we never fully understand and Hannah, by demons that are all too visible. And the audience is tested every step of the way as well. Considine plays on our emotions and what we assume to be true about the world to great effect.
The biggest test for audiences will be a matter of endurance and how much they can take. A dog is kicked to death, a woman is urinated on while she sleeps and rape and extreme domestic violence all play a role. From my theatrical experiences, I expect the animal abuse will cause many audience members to question what they’ve walked into, and rightly so. Considine doesn’t allow any easy outs when it comes to material that’s presented in as realistic a manner as possible.
The film’s cinematographer, Erik Wilson, didn’t gloss up the shoot with amber hues against cold blue backgrounds. This is a grey film with a bleak outlook and production designer Simon Rogers hasn’t peppered the set with name brand products. This is an “as is” kind of film, with no fluff, only content and what burns through are a couple of performances that will have you captivated and an overall theme that runs the potential of causing you to question every person you meet.
Given the presentation, Tyrannosaur is not a film for everyone, but it is a film that relates to anyone and everyone that will watch it. The final moments floored me as Considine has captured and anticipated an audience’s emotional and rational response to what they see on screen and flipped it.
This is a startling piece of filmmaking that at one point had me wondering why anyone would ever want to watch it, but, once all was said and done, it ends up being one of those films that will likely forever change the way I evaluate characters on screen and, perhaps, even the people I meet in my own life.