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Thursday 20 July 2017

Review: Tyrannosaur * * * *

(18, limited release)

Paul Whitington

As an actor Paddy Considine has always been drawn to dark tales of working-class dysfunction, and there's nothing particularly cheery about his directorial debut either. Considine also wrote the screenplay of Tyrannosaur, which stars Peter Mullan as Joseph, a widowed man in a council estate who has come to the end of his tether. In the film's opening scenes he's stumbling home from the pub one night when he's overcome with fury and kicks his little dog to death. This is the challenge that Considine cleverly sets us: is it possible to care for a man like that?

Joseph is consumed by rage: he drinks himself into nightly stupors, picks fights, fulminates against the world and seems to have nothing to live for. Not even the memory of his wife sustains him, because he's wracked with guilt about the shoddy way he treated her. Redemption seems unlikely for this lost soul, until he meets a dowdy woman called Hannah (Olivia Colman) who works at the local charity shop. Hannah is a devout and politely proselytising Christian who lives across town in a plush, middle-class estate.

In their early exchanges, Joseph cruelly dissects her good Samaritan routine and wonders aloud what a woman like her could possibly know about suffering. But Joseph, as usual, doesn't know what he's talking about: Hannah is married to a monstrous and conceited sociopath (Eddie Marsan), and her domestic life is a living hell.

Considine has said his film is a love story and in a way it is, but Joseph and Hannah's is a romance bereft of flowery words and tenderness.

In telling his bleak but ultimately moving story, Considine scrupulously resists resorting to cheap sentiment, and there are flourishes of salty wit. The performances of Mullan, Marsan and Colman are absolutely outstanding, and Tyrannosaur is a hugely impressive directorial debut in the tradition of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh.

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