The always-interesting Mark Kermode had a powerful column in The Observer yesterday about the British film Tyrannosaur, my own best film of 2011.
One of the very few major disappointments at this year's Bafta nominations was the lack of a best actress nod for the brilliant Olivia Colman. While Oscar voters tend to prefer their British thespians to play royals rather than real people, Colman's portrayal of an apparently happy-go-lucky charity shop worker with a dark domestic secret in Tyrannosaur (2011, StudioCanal, 18) deserved to wow British voters.
An assured and deeply personal feature debut from writer-director Paddy Considine, this tough but elegiac drama throws together two displaced souls: Colman's covertly abused wife (the mercurial Eddie Marsan plays her tormentor with horrific conviction and guile) and Peter Mullan's borderline psychotic drunk who opens the movie by kicking his faithful dog to death in a fit of impotent rage. It all sounds unbearably tough and certainly there is much here that challenges even the most sympathetic viewer to flinch and turn away. Yet beneath the battle-scarred, world-weary exterior lurks something altogether more uplifting – the sense of an unlikely emergent bond that gradually breaks the boundaries of the down-to-earth drama.
While each of these characters may be variously damaged, none of them is quite what they appear at first glance, least of all Colman's furiously resilient Hannah. What starts out as a grimly believable example of slice-of-life miserablism mutates into a covert treatise upon transcendence in which both religion and reality play a part.
Plaudits are due to actor-turned-film-maker Considine who handles the difficult material with confidence and grace and proves himself to be as much of a force of nature behind the camera as in front of it. Bravo.
Notwithstanding Mark Kermode’s jab at Bafta, the film has received some recognition in the UK. At the 14th Annual British Independent Film Awards in December it won Best Film, Best Debut Director, and Best Actress for Olivia Colman. If Paddy Considine’s name doesn’t ring any bells, his Wikipedia entry here may help. Peter Bradshaw’s review of Tyrannosaur in the Guardian says “..it really is a tough watch” and it is, but don’t be put off by that. The film is now out on dvd, available at Amazon and elsewhere.
As well as those named by Kermode, there are notable performances from Eddie Marsan, Paul Popplewell, and Samuel Bottomley as the young boy next door, Sian Breckin plays his mother.
A list of all the awards Tyrannosaur has received worldwide, and pending nominations, is here. Next up is the Evening Standard Film Awards, to be announced this evening, 6th February, where Tyrannosaur is nominated for Best Film, Best Actor (Peter Mullan), Best Actor (Olivia Colman), Best Screnplay (Paddy Considine)
The Bafta Film Awards will take place next Sunday 12th February. Here is the list of nominations.