<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Mike Leigh. Starring Timothy Spall, Dorothy Atkinson, Marion Bailey, Paul Jesson, Ruth Sheen, Lesley Manville, Joshua McGuire
This biopic is not necessarily for everyone. With its Victorian English and brusque leading character but delicious dialogue and visceral lead, Mr Turner turns out to be a classic film that brilliantly depicts the life of artists JMW Turner.
I have to admit that I had no idea what Mr Turner was about when I sat to watch it. I was a tad taken aback by the heavy, old English accents and flowery language. But that soon turned to delight, as the dialogue was so refreshingly classy, witty and full of meaning. Because I always think that just making people talk in Brit accents doesn’t make a film classier or funnier. It’s what they say, and what was written for them to say that makes the difference.
Mr Turner is a film about the artist who painted the sea, ships, shipwrecks and storms. It’s about his peculiar behaviour with those around him – sometimes gruff, sometimes nonchalant, sometimes cheery, and at others passionate – and their reactions to his weird words and actions. The genius of the man is overshadowed by his more interesting quirks and imperfections. We’re never really in love with him or anything but it just makes for more interesting viewing.
Timothy Spall is so immersed in this character that he becomes Mr Turner. With all the grunts, gruff behaviour, cheeky wit and abrasive tone of voice. He’s what they’d call a ‘character’. And Spall’s performance is a treat to watch. Just seeing how he goes about painting his works and the inspiration that he uses is much more rewarding than watching his pieces in their final glory.
Dorothy Atkinson as Hannah, Turner’s cousin and housekeeper, portrays a woman who has taken a shining to this old curmudgeon wonderfully. Her unrequited love for him is never overplayed and neither are his occasional one-minute romps with her.
At over two and a half hours Mr Turner takes a bit of patience with its languid pacing that never gets boring though. As a biopic its actually very good but not everyone will appreciate it. They may however appreciate the beautiful cinematography by Dick Pope who has captured landscapes and sunsets and ships at sea so gorgeously that you sigh in disbelief. I’ve always said there’s no more beautiful place in the World than the English countryside and its lush landscapes.