Director: Mike Leigh .
Starring: Timothy Spall, Paul Jesson, Dorothy Atkinson, UK. 2h 34m.
There is so much praise I can lavish on Mr Turner but first and foremost I have to admit that the choice in leading actor is such a strange but perfect cast, Timothy Spall is such a seasoned actor with talent coming out of his arse but as for looking and being J W M Turner, he wouldn’t be a first choice but he totally embodies the persona of Turner, from what is known and how he’s been portrayed from first hand accounts he is the spirit of the great artist and that’s primarily why this movie is so successful.
Skipping past the early years of training and influence the film zones in on Turners golden years from about 1820 onwards, after he’d made a name for himself and was relishing in his fame and feeling comfortable enough to do what he wanted to do, often throwing his gorilla weight around and getting his kicks by teasing the sensitive and refined Constable. Between throwing paint and tantrums there’s a hint of a troubled man, a man who’s primary reason for existing is his art, but his energy is outstanding, and Spalls interpretation and growls are sublime, never has “GURR” meant so much in a period costume dramas, his presence is felt in every scene, at times he seems to do so little but conveys so much. Not only did Spall practice painting for 2 years prior to this for authenticity but he seems to have been possessed by the same art and land as Turner.
Paul Jesson plays his astute father, a dedicated man who worked as Turners art assistant and almost as a caregiver as he attends to all his needs, the preservation and display of his art and even picks up his pigments and mixes his paints,, there eternal love and companionship is permanently evident on screen of course until Turners darkest days, it’s at times like this when I feel a bit odd detailing the later stages of a film, basically with biographical work it’s hard not comment as a majority of the people who will watch the film already have an interest in the subject and probably know a lot of the outcomes. The enjoyment is having the pleasure of seeing your favourite moment acted out, such as the bouye addition live in the gallery, and watching turner paint to entertain. But the last act starts off dark as Turner loses his father and eyesight two huge factors to change with his work and the tempo of the film but as he starts to wind down, find love and retire himself, new things begin in the uk steam trains and the industrial revolution but the aged Turner begins a new fascination and created one of his ultimate paintings Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway.
It’s powerful gun film and the 2 hours simply fly by with wonderful performances and tantalizing affairs, all attempts of hoity toity chit chat is soon brought crashing down to earth by Turner, which makes him a people’s champion in my books. While a lot of the film is just a lot of a superb actor doing this very best scowl at every opportunity and in the process speak a thousand words, around him the world is turning but Mr Turner interprets it with his own light hand in paint, no matter how complicated or frivolous his love was the English land and sea and his translations are priceless perfection, much like this film.
R – Goya (1971), Love is the Devil (1998), the Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)
L – Artist Documentaries
5s – Timothy Spall