Film Review – Mr. Turner (2014)

Mr. Turner - post

Title – Mr. Turner (2014)

Director – Mike Leigh (Another Year)

Cast – Timothy Spall, Paul Jesson, Lesley Manville

Plot – A look at the later life of eccentric and often daring 17th and 18th century painter J.M.W Turner (Spall).

 “Can I pose you a somewhat “conundruous” question?”

Review by Eddie on 21/05/2015

Critically lauded and fawned over by many upon its cinema release, British mainstay Mike Leigh delivers with Mr. Turner, a film as pretty as a picture yet as cold as a winter chill and an overtly frustrating experience that at a length of near 2 and a half hours acts as a disjointed and hard to love affair.

As a disclaimer I must admit to being neither a fan of Leigh’s unwaveringly arrogant work or knowledgeable in the history of Turner’s painting career and after my experience with Mr. Turner I feel as though neither of these two elements have been either rectified or been made more clear. Starting off the film in the middle ages of Turner’s life Leigh quickly thrusts the audience into his artistic world yet fails to allow us into it as Turner trapeses around at artist gatherings, makes trips to sea side shanty towns or has awkward encounters with his maids and we never once get a crystal clear view of what made the undeniably talented man tick. While Leigh’s trademark black humour is prevalent throughout this picture and his films have arguably never looked better thanks to some fine work from D.O.P Dick Pope (a man who made headlines at this year’s Academy Award nominee announcements) but what makes Turner something unwatchable into something bearable is the ever impressive work of Timothy Spall.

In another all too rare yet once more scene stealing turn, Spall is fabulous in his own unique way as the hard to read Turner. From a physicality side of acting through to minuet character tics, Spall inhabits Turner with a fervent relish and his is a turn that was rightfully heralded in last year’s awards circuits and it’s a shame that his commitment to the role wasn’t met with a more rewarding overall experience. It’s a long time since I can recall such a standout performance being surrounded by such another wise unremarkable ensemble or material.

An arduous and trudge worthy epic that does little to shine a light into the mind or works of a famed artistic visionary, Mr. Turner could’ve found itself in dangerously low pedigree had it not been for a yet another grand Timothy Spall turn that saves Mike Leigh’s newest self-assured oddity from being a completely disposable piece of artistic vision.

2 movie saving acting turns out of 5

21 responses to “Film Review – Mr. Turner (2014)

  1. Good review Eddie. It’s a slow movie, but Leigh has such a fine attention to detail in even the smallest moments, that it works and stays mostly compelling.

  2. Yeah, I have to agree guys, Spall was magnificent and pretty much saves the movie from being a torturous two hours of very little dialogue. Other saving graces are the camera work and detail. Could’ve been more in terms of getting to know Turner – the mind of Turner that is.

  3. Finally someone saw this movie the way I did! I had to look up Turner afterwards as so little was shown regarding his art. A movie about an artist that doesn’t shed any light on how that artist worked? I can’t see that as anything but a failure.

    You’re spot on, Spall saves this movie from being 2 and a half hours of…. nothing.

  4. Great review! Although I myself fell more into the ‘love it’ camp, I agree that the pace was pretty slow, and by the end I felt there hadn’t really been much insight into the inner Turner, particularly in terms of why his artwork became so much more abstract in his later years.

  5. Turner was a great artist. I saw his huge exhibit at the Met in 2009 over and over again. But Mr. Turner is not really a great film. I think Mike Leigh fell victim to a certain kind of misguided populism. He tried so hard to dramatize Turner as a sort of rough, working class asshole, that he sucked all the life out of him. And he slandered Ruskin (who saved so many of Turner’s works from private collectors).

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