The always dependable British character actor Paddy Considine has decided to turn his hand to feature length writing and directing with the utterly powerful Tyrannosaur, a film so perfectly bleak yet hopeful that it belies Considine’s inexperience as a director.

Tyrannosaur movie reviewThe story follows the troubled, often violent Joseph (Peter Mullan) who is now living a hard life on his own after the death of his wife. He meets charity shop worker Hannah (Olivia Colman), whose views obviously differ from his greatly, and the two start a (very platonic) relationship. The trouble is that Colman’s controlling husband, James (Eddie Marsan), finds out they’ve been spending time together.

You should know that Tyrannosaur is not an easy watch; it is perhaps the most grueling drama of the year so far. There are certain scenes, those including violence (or at least the impending threat of it), which some may find hard to stomach. But depressing though it may be at times, there’s a certain hopefulness to be found if you stick with it. It is essentially a film about human connection, how even two people as vastly different as the two leading characters are here can help each other in their own small ways, even if they don’t immediately recognise it themselves.

Considine controls tone like he’s been directing films for years (all that experience acting in films has clearly helped), filling the film with awkward silences and tense confrontations one scene and finding moments of genuine, believable humour the next, taking the audience on a whirlwind of emotion. It is a subtle film when it needs to be, but Considine certainly isn’t scared of taking it in some very dark directions.

All of this wouldn’t work half as well if it weren’t for the magnificent performances. Scottish character actor Peter Mullan is in absolute top form here, bringing a reliability to a character that acts pretty awfully at times – he would be despicable and wholly unlikable in lesser hands. Olivia Colman (who some may know from the wonderful sitcom Peep Show) is a revelation as Hannah, and I think after this we will see her pop up a lot more in dramas as well as comedies. The last piece of the acting puzzle is Marsan as Colman’s sleazy, despicable husband, James. Marsan has rarely been better; even when he’s not on-screen (he has far less screen-time than the two leads) you feel his presence just as Colman is constantly looking over her shoulder in fear of him.

Grim but completely rewarding, Tyrannosaur is a remarkable debut from Considine. Heartfelt yet devastating, the film is essential viewing for fans who like their moods realistic, powerful, and uncompromising. Considine is one of Britain’s most talented actors working today and with his first film he proves himself a very talented writer/director indeed. Mightily impressive stuff.

This review was previously published at Blog Critics.