An exploration into the life of the great British painter J.M.W Turner (Timothy Spall). This is the latest movie instalment from Mike Leigh, and as such there isn’t really a plot as such, more just characters and a setting.
I think we had better start with my gripe. It’s a relatively large one, but at the same time there is only one. It is an awfully long film, and it feels long. This isn’t a film that you just sit down and watch, it’s one that you take on only when you are in the right frame of mind. I feel that maybe it would work better on TV in smaller chunks. Maybe three episodes of 50 minutes, rather than one two and a half hour slog. It is also important to note that, I’m not calling the film boring. Because it isn’t boring, it’s just very long.
However putting that gripe aside, what a piece of art this movie is. It is absolutely gorgeous to look at, and is just delightfully well shot and lit at all times. I think even if it was silent, just watching the sweeping hills and beaches intercut with fantastic period dressing would be quite an enjoyable experience. I am though glad it wasn’t silent because the score is also masterful. Every aspect of the design of Mr. Turner is spot on. Whether it be the shape of Spall’s hair at any given time or the beautifully crafted costumes, the effort that has gone into designing the film is quite extraordinary.
It’s also an incredible performance from Timothy Spall, who completely transforms into this hulking growling man that you have never seen the like of but you completely believe in him right from the start (once you’ve become accustomed to the dialogue style). Everyone else in the film is very good, but Spall just dominates the screen so completely you almost don’t notice. And it’s not even a particularly showy performance (probably why he didn’t even get an Oscar nomination) and he manages to convey a lot of emotion in his every sound. It really is an incredible performance.
Overall, if you are ready to watch just two and half hours of character development essentially, I think you will really love Mr. Turner. And even if you don’t get into it, you will still be able to appreciate it for the work of art that it is. But I still think it would work better in short bursts.