16 February 2012

TYRANNOSAUR (Dir. Paddy Considine, 2011, UK)

Actor turned director Paddy Considine’s debut plays like a pastiche of British social realism. I didn’t feel the film moved beyond such pastiche and constantly throughout the viewing I kept making mental visual references back to familiar British social realist films. The influence of Loach, Meadows and Leigh is evident throughout but it is Alan Clarke who emerges victorious as the single biggest influence on Considine’s approach. Despite taking Clarke as an authorial filmmaker, Considine casts Mullan in the lead role and thus makes everything else somewhat perfunctory. There’s not much hope in the story of an abusive working class male who lives on a council estate trying to come to terms with the death of his wife. Tyrannosaur is a grim film and Considine would argue that it is supposed to be a grim film because it comes out of something grim and painful in his life too. The problem I had with this kind of filmmaking is that Considine takes all the now defunct idioms of British social realist cinema and offers very little in terms of an alternate visual or aesthetic approach. Neither is the framing cinematic or particularly innovative but instead feels conservatively formulaic. And the muted visual look of Tyrannosaur appears dated and indicative of Considine’s misunderstanding that British social realism can be attempted by anyone with a troubling story to tell. Each of the characters are also underwritten, coming across as one dimensional and lacking any sense of 'authenticity', criteria regularly cited when analysing up close the characters and milieu of social realist cinema. I know I may be a little judgemental given the fact that this is Considine’s first full length feature but it lacks the anarchic spark and subtle humour that he has been able to bring to his best performances. Tyrannosaur fails to impress because Considine is in awe of his cinematic heroes, blinding his judgement as a director. Considine fails to see that the ordinariness of his material is paradoxically what is at fault - social realism cannot be predictable, imitative nor contrived if it is to be successful in the hope of revealing reality. What makes me even more angry is the way in which Peter Mullan's remarkable film Neds was simply pushed to one side whereas Tyrannosaur steamed ahead to claim a number of awards.


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