Beasts and Bastards

Sihle Mthembu, participant of the Durban Talent Press, reviews Paddy Considine's TYRANNOSAUR at the Durban International Film Festival.

Paddy Considine's TYRANNOSAUR.

One of the most beautiful terms to describe an awful reality of the human condition is "the winter of his life" - a poetic musing about the depletion of one's youth. Age is one of the most dominant themes in recent cinematic culture. Jeff Bridges in CRAZY HEART is a fine example. It seems that we exist in a culture that is obsessed with the idea of redemption, particularly if this idealistic comeback is framed against the backdrop of old age.

Written and directed by actor Paddy Considine, TYRANNOSAUR is a film about a very odd "relationship" between the brutal Joseph (played gloriously by Peter Mullan, who ironically does nothing but age unrealistically well) and his make-shift friend Hannah (Olivia Colman). Hanna 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 strikes up a casual relationship with Hanna.

While the storyline is not terribly innovative, it holds up very well on screen mostly due to Considine's directorial grace and the vulnerability of his characters. Considine avoids creating characters that are nothing more than broad social brushstrokes. He is a director that focusses on the double-sided nature of his subjects. Joseph, the violent alcoholic, is surprisingly friendly to Hanna, who, despite being the poster girl for a good middle-aged wife, is sexually withdrawn and prone to lashing out. Cinematically, this is a portrait of a life lived in contradiction, told with palpable conviction.

As a director, Considine uses the various elements at his disposal, particularly Erik Wilson's cinematography, to create a film that is mostly tonal. In terms of quality of narrative the film is a little flat in places but this does not in any way drag down the arc of the story. It would seem that Considine is a director that is less interested in an entertaining film than 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 very rich in its use of metaphor, juxtaposing both Joseph and Hannah in relation to their social landscape. What Considine is saying in TYRANNOSAUR is that the really dangerous people in contemporary British society are not the gritty, despised lower class, but its middle class, whose shocking agendas, secret lives and ultimately drastic actions are what is really ripping apart British society and its established norms.

Perhaps the best, but most gruesome scene in the 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. 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 head of the butchered dog's corpse bleeding from his lap, he is a graceful image.

It's moments like these that make this film such an interesting one. Considine avoids the traditional over-dramatisation of scenes, rather opting for a delicate and softer treatment of even the most brutal sequences. This all plays as a precursor for a conclusion that brings the film to a soft landing.