Tyrannosaur opens with Joseph (Peter Mullan) beating his dog to death, setting the tone for a bleak and fascinating look into the lives of two very different, very lost souls. Joseph’s hateful outbursts are almost always followed by a remorse that makes him quite pitiful to behold. But Hannah (Olivia Colman), a Christian charity shop worker, seems poised to help Joseph find—if not the light—some light in his life...until her studied air of bourgeois repression begins to crack, revealing secrets as dark and brutal as Joseph’s.
I caught up with actor-turned-director Paddy Considine when he was in Toronto for TIFF. We met at the Intercontinental Hotel—a world away from the stark council houses in Leeds, where most of his debut film takes place.
Here’s what he had to say….
On killing the dog:
In actual fact, [Joseph’s] violence has led him to kill his last companion. And the reason a dog is because, you know, dogs are just so loyal…And it’s a very brutal act and I know it’s very shocking, but I think it has to be, because it’s the moment that he realizes that he can’t go on the way he is.
On the British class system:
In England, still—still—we’re so defined by class, you know? And it’s hard to get away from it…But I suppose what Tyrannosaur does that maybe other films haven’t is that it brings these characters together from two different sides of life, if you like. One from the working class area and the other from the middle class area, which being a middle class area—a quiet suburb—seems to signify that there’s some sort of peace and quiet in there, and there’s something quite idyllic about it, when in actual fact in this story it’s where the true horror is. And that’s not my comment on the middle classes, it’s more the sort of idea of how we can’t help but make face value judgments about people that we meet.
On his connection to his characters:
I suppose I just fell in love with them…To me I think they’re heroic because they’re baring their souls to you, and I couldn’t help but care for them. There were times on set when I took myself to the corner because I got quite upset, and I didn’t realize how much I loved them. I guess it was just that I sympathized with their journey, and I wanted redemption for both of them. But in this film it doesn’t come in a conventional way, which it doesn’t in life sometimes. But I did love them.
On his inspiration for the film:
I just think it’s a buildup of my life growing up, and the people that I was around. And that’s not to say it’s autobiographical, but it certainly references people that were close to me or around in my community. And to be honest with you, I think a lot of it is me trying to make sense of a lot of things, and a lot of people.
On Tyrannosaur’s critical reception:
I think before Sundance I was quite terrified, and I think over the last few months I’ve realized that I have no control over how it’s going to be received, and I can’t take it personally. I hope that the film’s genuine enough and I hope that there’s a truth in there enough for people to realize that I’m not trying to bulls**t them in any way.
Well, Paddy, you certainly had this reviewer convinced. Tyrannosaur opens in Toronto January 27.