Starring: Timothy Spall, Paul Jesson, Dorothy Atkinson
Director: Mike Leigh
Running Time: 150 mins
Mr. Turner is a British film about the life of the eccentric painter JMW Turner, from his work in changing the world of art forever, to his personal life and relationships, particularly with one woman whom he grows very close to up until the day he dies.
Ok, there’s no faulting that this is a well-made and fantastically acted biopic. However, I found it incredibly tiring to watch, with a running time of two and a half hours, and with its painfully slow pacing and seemingly strange editing, I struggled to ever really become invested in this film, also due to the fact that some of the more technical details about the importance of Turner’s work in the world of art were quite hard to understand for a non-art aficionado.
I’ll start with the positives of this film, the main one of which is without a doubt Timothy Spall’s performance. He creates a very recognisable screen persona of Mr. Turner, and did a great job of showing the painter’s good and bad side. Because of his performance, you see how strange and often bad the man was, however he is definitely relatable enough for you to be able to will him on as time goes by.
That idea is echoed in the score of this film, which is also excellent. Although I was uneasy about its character at first, seeing as it sounds like something that you’d find in a psychological horror or something, the effects of it as the movie goes on are clear. Some of the score sounds like your generic biopic/Lark Rise To Candleford music, but other parts are eerie and unsettling, which helps to mirror the two-sided character of Mr. Turner.
However, one of the biggest issues that I found with this film was how its story was presented. From the start, everything is very quiet, the camera shots are very long, and it’s all a little hard to stomach, whilst that painfully slow pacing that continues right the way through does make it quite tough to keep your attention fully engaged for the whole duration.
Meanwhile, for someone who’s not at all versed in the history of art and the history of JMW Turner, this is pretty heavy-going. It’s incredibly factual, and it intends to show the importance of Turner’s vision and style in the way that we know art today, however, seeing as it’s such an abstract idea, I found it really difficult to understand how or why any of what he did was so important, which meant that the impact of a lot of the film was lost for me.
Overall, this gets a 6.5, because although Timothy Spall gave an excellent central performance, and the scoring behind this was fantastic, I couldn’t stomach the very heavy-going and factual story that drags on for a tiring two and a half hours.