I remember vividly the first time I sat down to watch Paddy Considine’s directorial debut film Tyrannosaur several months ago. I had heard bits and pieces about the film from critics and friends – that it was raw, gritty, and unafraid to delve into difficult subjects. But nothing really could have prepared me for the emotional impact and lasting impression the film would leave.
As the opening credits started to roll, setting the grim tone with their drab grey backdrop, I took note of the no-name rural English town the film was set in. Rows of terrace houses and smoke billowing from factory chimneys hinted at the working-class lives of struggle that would be portrayed. Then we were immediately thrown headfirst into the world of Joseph, played compellingly by Peter Mullan, as he flew into a rage and brutally kicked his dog to death in the street. It was a jarring and horrifying way to kick off the film, showing that Considine wouldn’t shy away from depicting violence and cruelty in harsh detail.
In the aftermath of the dog killing, Joseph was clearly a man at the end of his rope, fueled by anger and alcoholism as he stumbled around town like a caged animal looking for its next release of violence. His confrontation at the pub where he beat up some teens was another unsettling scene that confirmed no punches would be pulled with this film. When Joseph fled into a local charity shop to escape, it set up his fateful meeting with Hannah, played by Olivia Colman, in a tour de force performance. Right away, there was a deep complexity to her character, exuding quiet strength and faith despite clearly suffering her own private hell behind closed doors.
The evening Joseph and Hannah spent together, bonding over drinks at a local pub during a wake for Joseph’s friend, showed flickers of hope that they could help pull each other out of the darkness. But it contrasted with the underlying ominous feeling, supported excellently by ominous musical score and cinematography, that their damaged psyches left them forever teetering on the edge. Every moment of calm felt temporary, with the next eruption of violence never far behind. Their volatile relationship continued to evolve in gripping and unpredictable ways throughout.
What struck me most about Considine’s direction was how unflinchingly real he made everything feel. There were no concessions made to be more palatable, no pulling any punches to avoid making audiences uncomfortable. He captured the gritty urban grime and dreariness of working-class life down to the smallest details. But most of all, he got the human emotions – the struggles with addiction, rage, abuse, religion, and longing to escape from it all. Many scenes were hard to watch but impossible to look away from. You felt like a voyeur peeking into these damaged, miserable lives that likely reflected the struggles of many in reality.
Hannah : I prayed for you last night.
Joseph : Yeah, well, it didn’t f**king work.
Hannah : I think it did.
Joseph : Don’t think he heard you, love.
Hannah : Why did you come here?
Joseph : I was just passing.
Hannah : There must be a reason. Do you want God to forgive you for something?
Joseph : I don’t want anything from that f**k.
Hannah : God loves you.
Joseph : Does he now?
Hannah : You’re a child of God.
Joseph : God ain’t my f*ing daddy. My daddy was a c*nt, but he knew he was a cunt. God still thinks he’s God. Nobody’s told him otherwise.
Hannah : Why are you so angry at God?
Joseph : Why are you so f**king stupid?
Joseph : I’ve met people like you all my f*king life. Goodie goodies. Make a charity record. Bake a cake. Save a fking soul! You’ve never eaten sh*t. Don’t know what it’s like out there.
I suspect Considine must have drawn deeply from his own life experiences appearing in works by Shane Meadows to craft such authentic, lived-in characters. Mullan and Colman became complete beings before our eyes – layered, complex, and haunting in their imperfect humanity. Their relationship evolved in a deeply empathetic, frayed-at-the-edges, but also tender manner. While hugely dysfunctional and unhealthy, there was clearly real affection and understanding between these two lost souls. They saw reflections of their own darkest parts in each other but also remaining flickers of light and redemption. Both stars delivered career-defining performances that burrowed deep under the skin.
The supporting cast was also phenomenal. Eddie Marsan is unnerved as the even more monstrously abusive husband character, James, making him the most frightening presence. You truly believed the depths of evil he was capable of. Samuel Bottomley also shone as the young neighborhood boy who looked to Joseph like a father figure, showing glimpses of paternal warmth in Mullan’s otherwise violent character. Every person felt like a fully realized individual rather than a mere plot device.
Technically, the film was a marvel as well. Cinematographer Erik Alexander Wilson brought an appropriately gritty yet beautiful realism to tired, grit-encrusted environs. The score by Chris Baldwin and Dan Baker was sparse but powerful. The emphasizing ominous tones or swelling strings sat at the right moments to amplify emotions. Considine’s writing was lean yet profoundly moving, sympathetic to all characters’ struggles while avoiding melodrama.
Most impactful was how grounded, and unsettlingly plausible the whole world of Tyrannosaur felt. I’ve rarely seen on-screen depictions of alcoholism, abuse, and anger issues ring so true because Considine refused any cop-outs or easy conclusions. Life doesn’t work that way for people sunk so deeply in their respective hells. And while humor emerged at times to provide respite from the darkness, there was never any doubt these characters remained balanced on a knife-edge.
The ending was ambiguous but appropriate – no tidy bow wrapped around their stories, just an achingly small win suggesting hope might survive despite everything. But it also ensured we’d never forget Joseph, Hannah, and their grim English in every town, a microcosm of larger societal issues still so direly relevant. Months later, I still think of quiet, internalized scenes and remarkable performances that left scars. Not many films burrow so deeply under your skin or stick with you so powerfully long after viewing.
Tyrannosaur was a true art film but never pretentious or inaccessible. Despite the immense difficulty of the subject matter, Paddy Considine’s debut showed remarkable compassion, empathy, and respect for his characters. There is nothing sensationalized, just clear-eyed truth presented without prejudice. For this alone, it deserves immense credit for refusing to shy away from life’s darkest corners most would prefer to remain hidden. I believe that ultimately makes it so impactful – it holds up an unflinching mirror to societal issues many would prefer to ignore, but done with such profound humanity.
I give Tyrannosaur 4.5/5 stars for telling such an uncompromisingly real yet emotionally resonant story anchored by nothing short of stunning lead performances from Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman. Paddy Considine became a major directorial talent to watch with this raw, unforgettable work. It remains one of the most profoundly human films I’ve seen that dissects how anger, abuse, and addiction fester unnoticed all around us. I sincerely hope more viewers seek it out to experience its emotional weight and lasting impact firsthand. It will undoubtedly leave scars, but necessary ones to remind us of the realities ailing many in society still crying out for attention.
Movie Rating: 4.5/5
Note: 3 is the median. Anything above 3 is a recommended watch.