The responsibility of owning a dog is so great because there is nothing you can do to stop a dog from loving you. That’s meant to be true of Christ, too. In Paddy Considine’s début as a feature director, TYRANNOSAUR, both ideas are tested to bloody destruction. One of them does not fair well.
Unimaginative viewers might complain that the characters are stereotypes. Maybe: abused wife, naive Christian, gruff diamond-in-the-rough with a heart of something resembling gold, a Frank Gallagher clone, even deadpan comic relief child makes an appearance.
But maybe they are Wagnerian archetypes. Like Der Ring des Nibelungen TYRANNOSAUR deals with the largest themes in the smallest setting. Like the Ring, TYRANNOSAUR is domestic drama dealing with the nature of God, the power of love and what happens when they collide. And as with the Ring music is used to great effect. Perhaps too great. Audiences are primed to respond so fully to certain musical tropes that the soundtrack at times felt manipulative.
The action takes place in a few claustrophobic settings, each symbolic, with Joseph (Peter Mullan) marching between them through an working class suburban shambles sometimes photographed in epic colour-drenched wide-screen. Where the photography is not deliberately beautiful it is clinically precise. Although there are some startling close-ups the camera is a camera, not a participant. Grotesque events unfold before it and while we may flinch it does not. The actors make full use of their restricted sets, fitting into the interstices of a realistically complicated world.
TYRANNOSAUR will not be an easy film to watch twice. The anguish of Hanna (an astonishing performance by Olivia Coleman) is genuinely jaw-dropping and the violence threaded throughout the story will make anyone sweat. But it might be necessary to. Considine talks openly about his Asperger’s and one gets the impression that no single thing in any frame, however small, is there by accident.
They say that the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled of was to convince us that he does not exist. TYRANNOSAUR offers the possibility that God’s greatest crime is that he does not.
The UK Premiere of Tyrannosaur was followed by a Q&A with Paddy Considine.