The staple of modern-day British cinema has become somewhat of a more nostalgically introverted yet increasingly paradoxical art form in recent years; depicting with almost zealous glee every wart, boil and scab that our supposedly “modern” island society has to offer. The recent hallmarks produced by the cozy, intimate world that is the UK film industry have focused greatly on historical contexts, metaphorical lyricism and above all a deepening sense of loss with there visual thematics. It is then unsurprising to me that British cinema is often rife with the motifs of time, change, regret, shame, identity and age to name just a few. But for one film to approach all such storytelling metaphors, as diverse and difficult to portray as they are, and yet still be so successful in the telling of its own original narrative, one must conclude that it is a work of art worthy of respect and repeated viewings.
“Tyrannosaur“, helmed by acclaimed actor/writer/director Paddy Considine, is a harrowing tale of redemption and retribution set in the bleak world of forgotten Northern England. Its main star, rugged Scottish actor Peter Mullan plays Joseph, a down and out societal “scrounger” by any Tory’s standards who spends his days drinking and meandering his way through what could quite easily be called the worst council estate in Britain. During another typical day of heavy alcohol consumption Joseph stumbles into a local charity shop and gradually befriends the volunteer, Hannah (Olivia Colman) who attempts to help him get his life back on track whilst hiding her own domestic secrets.
From a narrative standpoint the world of Tyrannosaur is very centralized. The horrid squalor this nameless estate provides is excellent in its visual grotesqueness however witnessing the various characters traversing through such a maze is only half the joy in Considines vision. It’s the world underneath the grim and muck of what we can see which becomes the far more interesting aspect to Tyrannosaur, particularly where Mullan’s character is featured. The hard-boiled, constantly grumpy Scot becomes an easy target for stereotyping until we witness a much more personal and touching side to this seemingly acrid persona. The same can be said for the character Hannah, played delicately by Colman, who exudes sympathy for both Joseph and the audience in a world that requires a heavy helping of mercy regularly.
The revelations that follow through Tyrannosaur‘s narrative reflect, I feel, the unseen society of Britain today. Compared with the similarly themed works by Shane Meadows and Ken Loach, Considine has joined what appears to be an entire generation of young British filmmakers creating independent works devoid of patriotism and instead bursting with the same “kitchen sink” qualities and mentality of such acute storytellers such as Karel Reisz. The only difference now is we can see the poverty people that our a “modern” island nation are subjected to in crisp high-definition with no social stigmas to be held back. It may seem crass to just simply copy and paste a familiar looking world complete with its own assortment of degenerates and scum for the viewer to despise but what does it say about the current generation of storytellers when this motif is constantly being revered? Whether you like the picture it paints or not Tyrannosaur is a fantastic personal drama spun within a web of depravity and sorrow which some would consider extreme, others would sadly call their own back yard.