One of the most beautiful terms to describe an awful reality in the human condition is, “The winter of his life.” A poetic musing about a horrific depletion of one’s youth. Age is perhaps the most seminal theme in recent cinematic culture. The likes of Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart are fine examples. It seems that we have created a culture that is obsessed with the idea of redemption particularly if this idealistic comeback is framed in the backdrop of old age.
Written and Directed by Paddy Considine who is known more as a writer for films such as Dead Men’s Shoes and Dog Altogether, Tyrannosaur is a film about a very odd ‘relationship’ between a brut and bruising man named Joseph (played gloriously by Peter Mullan who ironically does nothing but age unrealistically well and play just beneath the surface though much of film), and his make shift friend Hannah (Olivia Colman). Hannah is a lonely wilting wife to a bastard husband who drinks and pees on her whilst she sleeps. Joseph is the righteous, atheist drunk who casually meets and talks to her. The storyline is not terribly innovative, it comes across as a recycled old idea but holds very well on screen mostly due to Considine’s directorial grace and the vulnerability of his characters.
Considine in this film unlike many other directors avoids creating characters that are simplistic and nothing more than broad social brushstrokes about English social decline. He is a director that has focused on the double sided nature of his subjects.
Joseph the violent alcoholic who is surprisingly friendly to Hannah whilst she herself the poster girl for a good middle aged wife is somehow sexually withdrawn and prone to lashing out. Cinematically this is a portrait of life lived in contradiction and is a film with palpable conviction.
As a director Considine uses the various elements at his disposal, particularly Erik Wilson’s cinematography to create film that is mostly tonal. But in terms of quality of narrative the film in some areas comes across as rather flat but this does not in any way drag down the arch of the story. Particularly because it would seem that Considine is a director that is less interested in an entertaining film and is much more concerned with a realistic one and let’s face it real people’s lives are not that interesting, which is what makes this film arrestingly significant.
Tyrannosaur is also very rich in its employment of the metaphorical as it juxtaposes both Joseph and Hannah in relation to the social landscape that they find themselves tasked with living in. The depleted and clearly weekend vs the established and well to do classes. What Considine is saying in Tyrannosaur is that the real trouble and really dangerous people in contemporary British society are not the gritty despised lower classes but its rather people of a middle class ilk whose shocking agendas, secret lives and ultimately drastic actions are what is really ripping apart British society and its established norms as we know them.
Perhaps the best scene in this film is when a vengeful Joseph decides to take action against the neighborhood pitbull after it eats away at the face of a young boy in the neighborhood. He hacks the dog to death leaving the pieces for the dog’s owner and keeping its head as a trophy.
As he sits on an old couch outside his home, with the heard of the butchered dog’s corpse bleeding from his lap, he is a graceful image. Its moments like this that are quite surprising in this film because Considine avoids the traditional over-dramatisation of scenes like this rather opting for a delicate and more softened treatment of even the most brutal sequences. This all plays as precursor for a conclusion that brings the film to a soft landing.