Director: Mike Leigh; Main Cast: Timothy Spall, Paul Jesson, Dorothy Atkinson, Marion Bailey;
Visually stunning biopic of J.M.W. Turner (Spall): dedicated, single-minded and inquisitive painter of the 19th century. Mike Leigh’s take on Turner is focused on the last twenty-five years of his life, when he’s already an established artist and master of the craft. Turner spends his time either travelling (abroad or in the country) or painting in his London’s home, which he shares with his beloved, aging father William (Jesson) and Hannah (Atkinson), faithful housekeeper who has feelings (not returned) for the painter. The film gives a dichotomous portrayal: on one hand the genius of the light rendered on canvas, on the other the eccentric, at time cantankerous, man with a rather complex personal life. We witness Turner’s determined study of light in any condition of time and weather, even going to extreme measures like being tied up to the mast of a ship to observe a snow storm at sea. Both celebrated and reviled by public and critics (including royalty), he is popular among his fellow artists of the Royal Academy, although considered peculiar as shown in a couple of quite effective scenes. During one of his trips to the seaside, he befriends a local landlady, Ms Booth (Bailey), with whom he eventually lives in secret in Chelsea until his death. Mike Leigh manages to balance well the dichotomy in Turner’s life and describes skillfully this man, who grew up in the bohemian world of Covent Garden, but was later held accountable by the more rigid Victorian moral standards. Timothy Spall really owns the role, giving an intense and convincing performance and injecting some humanity in a character that could come across as too cold and detached. Special kudos also to Dorothy Atkinson for her Hannah. Powerful —8/10
2 responses to “Mr Turner”
Great review. This was my favourite film from 2014 – I completely agree Spall and Atkinson’s performances were incredible. I wish Atkinson had received some supporting actress nominations.
Thanks! I think that they were both robbed of at least a nomination.