Tuesday, 11 August 2015

I've Just Seen: Mr. Turner (2014)

Mr Turner (2014)

Director: Mike Leigh

The problem with many biography films is that they try to force a narrative into the unfolding of a person's life. Though many people have episodes that are asking to be made into a film (Apollo 13 is one such example), most people's lives are made up of disparate elements that sometimes overlap, but often occur in isolation. Leigh has approached J. M. W. Turner's life in such a way. The film arguably has not plot, and characters do not go around explaining their feelings and actions to each other, but appear to just live. As a result, Leigh's film doesn't have the typical feel of your traditional period drama, but acts as more of a portrait of one of Britain's greatest artists.

Timothy Spall is wonderful as Turner: he allows us to see the man at work, but also keeps some elements of Turner a mystery. Spall's Turner is a complex person, who is loving with his father, and shattered at his death, yet denies the paternity of his own children; a grunting, inelegant person who speaks eloquently and paints such striking art. The supporting cast are all great, each wears their character well and slip into the period setting comfortably. Dick Pope's cinematography is beautiful to look at, depicting Victorian England as a busy place brightly lit by the sun (the only unrealistic aspect may be the lack of rain that England is famous for; it seems to always be sunny).

If you like your films to have a clear plot with highly dramatic flourishes, this might not be the film for you. However, this is a very good portrayal of a man moving through his life, and the context for some of the most beautiful paintings in English art history.

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