Mr. Turner (2014)
Starring: Timothy Spall, Paul Jesson, Dorothy Atkinson, Marion Bailey
Directed By: Mike Leigh
Written By: Mike Leigh
Rating: R (US) Running Time: 2 hr 24 min
With great dialog, written and delivered in a manner reminiscent of a stage play rather than a film. Mike Leigh delivers a touching and layered portrait of one of England’s finest painters. Exploring his complex private life and family connections, as well as his relationship’s with other artists of the time.
Arranged and shot to honor Turner’s great use of color, Dick Pope’s cinematography makes superb use of available natural sunlight. Mr Turner is as beautiful to behold as one of the great master’s paintings. Beautifully capturing the stunning English country side, the coast, the details within the City of London, and indeed inside Turner’s own work space too. I was frequently taken aback by each colorful establishing shot. And I loved the attention to detail in the sets and costumes. Which all combine nicely to properly transport the viewer back in time to ponder the life of this visual genius. His motivations, inspirations and passions.
This isn’t just a well researched and shot period piece either. At the heart of Mr. Turner is an incredible performance from Timothy Spall. Grunting a growling through his conversations like a wounded bear, while subtly betraying his gruff boisterous manner around the people he truly cares about. As portrayed, Turner is someone you want to know. As somehow being the focus of his attention makes you as important as one of his paintings. Fleeting but exhilarating, and painful when his attention wanders. Which is beautifully illustrated by a great supporting performance from Dorothy Atkinson as his long-suffering housekeeper, Hannah Danby.
With the film’s primary focus on Turner himself, and less so on specific master works, or his career, the over two-hour running time is felt. And I did wonder if some of that time might have been better used exploring his early years. Specifically, his relationship with his father, or his first wife and their children.
This is a two and a half hour period piece about a famous painter. If none of that sounds interesting to you, and you’ve never heard of Joseph Mallord William Turner, then this movie might not be your cup of tea. The movie is rated R for some brief sexual content.
This is a beautiful motion picture, and I wish I had seen it in a movie theater. At home a HD screening is a must. Like Turner’s paintings, this movie needs a nice big canvas. I would not recommend you watch this film on a laptop, tablet or phone.
Best Moment: << spoiler >>
Right at the end of the film, there’s a really touching moment with Turner’s housekeeper, Hannah Danby. Turner has gone, and she has been used, rejected an abandoned. But still enters his studio to mourn the loss of her unrequited love.