Written and directed by Mike Leigh
Starring: Timothy Spall, Paul Jesson, Dorothy Atkinson, Marion Bailey
An exploration of the last 25 years in the life of British painter J.M.W. Turner (Spall). His own choices and losses have a profound effect on his eccentric approach to life and painting.
This film is a passion project from Mike Leigh (Vera Drake). Leigh said “I felt there was scope for a film examining the tension between this very mortal, flawed individual, and the epic work, the spiritual way he had of distilling the world.” He not only wrote the film, but also directed it. The movie stars Timothy Spall (Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman), Paul Jesson (Coriolanus), Dorothy Atkinson (All or Nothing), and Marion Bailey (Meantime).
The story works exactly as Leigh stated. It’s an examination of a flawed individual with a powerful gift. The story, if it can be called that, is told in a series of vignettes designed to highlight the many facets of Turner’s life. These small moments come together to create a very unique picture of Turner. The moments are sometimes very intimate, allowing for Turner’s flaws and passion to be exhibited nicely. The dialogue is well-written and is used sparingly. This allows the visuals to really stand out. This might not be a film for everyone since it moves at a slow pace. While the film features a number of unique moments, there is little to tie them together. This movie also doesn’t answer as many questions as it asks. These things might not work for casual moviegoers, but otherwise it’s very nicely written.
The acting in this movie is wonderful. Timothy Spall creates a unique and complicated version of J.M.W. Turner. His physical and verbal transformation are incredible. He also finds unique ways to express the emotions and the flaws of his character. Paul Jesson, Dorothy Atkinson, and Marion Bailey all do good work in this one as well. The film revolves around Spall’s role, but the supporting cast members all accent the story nicely. Some of the characters on the fringe of this film seem a bit over-acted, but the core of the film is solid and talented.
The visuals in this film are really great. The cinematography earned Dick Pope (The Way of the Gun) an Oscar nomination for his work. The film also features a great score by Gary Yershon (Another Year), who also received an Oscar nomination for this one. The costuming, the set design, and the locations used are all awesome. The final two Oscar nominations for this movie came for Best Production Design and Best Costume Design. All of these efforts add to a lot to this interesting film.
This is an interesting and somewhat unique movie. As I stated before, this is a movie that asks many questions without feeling the need to provide answers. The acting and the visuals are wonderfully done in this one. If you’re a fan of the stars or Leigh this is one to see. I would also suggest this to fans of drama. I give this one 3.4 out of 5 stars.