5 out of 10
Release Date: 31st October 2014
Director: Mike Leigh (Another Year / Happy Go Lucky / Vera Drake / All Or Nothing / Topsy Turvy / Career Girls / Secrets & Lies / Naked / Life Is Sweet / High Hopes / Mean Time / Nuts In May / Abigail’s Party)
Cast: Timothy Spall, Marion Bailey, Dorothy Atkinson, Paul Jesson, Martin Savage, Ruth Sheen, Joshua McGuire, Karl Johnson, Patrick Godfrey, Karina Fernandez, Mark Stanley, Jamie Thomas King, Richard Bremmer, Leo Bill, Sandy Foster, Stuart McQuarrie, Sylvestra Le Touzel, Katie O’Flynn, Sam Kelly with Peter Wight and Lesley Manville
Featured Extras: James Fleet, Eileen Davies, Elizabeth Berrington, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Oliver Maltman, Lee Ingleby
Devised by Mike Leigh
Trailer: MR TURNER
To be proofread: It’s no secret that I am a huge Mike Leigh fan. It’s also true that his period dramas are never amongst my favourites. My heart always sinks slightly when I learn that his next movie will be fact-based or set in the days of yore. Mr Turner has amazing moments and some startling performances but it never woke up enough stir the heart and mind like his material based in the present day. It’s a huge accomplishment and perhaps Mike Leigh’s most ambitious movie to date but I struggled to engage with the whole beast. Lights turned on for short spells but the movie was so episodic my interest levels wained more than peaked.
Focussing on the painter William Turner‘s (TIMOTHY SPALL – VANILLA SKY) last few years in the public eye as the nation’s leading painter. Pushing through a new impressionistic style he finds his popularity dimming. His lose of personal verve also has much to do with the passing of his father (PAUL JESSON – CORIOLANUS) with whom he has a wholesome and friendly relationship with. His father helps him exhibit his paintings with great flourish and the film also seems to suffer once this character leaves the picture (so to speak.) The film also explores his relationships with his new wife (MARION BAILEY – MEANTIME), his housekeeper and neglected lover (DOROTHY ATKINSON – CALL THE MIDWIFE) and the angry estranged mother of his children (RUTH SHEEN – RUN FATBOY RUN) each of whom reveal a different face of the maestro. However, there is no grand sweep to the film. It was a movie of short episodes and like my learned friend Joe Pesci II points out in his review below – Mike Leigh may well have flicked through a book on Turner’s life and chose to adapt random events / non-events.
Stand-out scenes are when Turner is strapped to the mast of ship in a storm, or when he witnesses the inspiration to his most famous painting ‘The Fightin Temeraire’. Lesley Manville (ASHES) beguiles with a quieter scene where she shows Turner light refractions with her collection of prisms. Timothy Spall in the titular role delivers the performance of a lifetime. He’s a fine actor who’s often miscast (see The King’s Speech or The Last Samurai) but his Turner is a complex creation and a masterclass in persuasion. It’s a shame that the film wasn’t more interesting or less conventional. Although the film is loose in structure we are subjected to a completely unnecessary and drawn out death-bed scene. Such films as Mr Turner were ten-a-penny in Channel 4’s 1980s-90s hey-day and this would have been considered quite mediocre – think Tom & Viv, The Heart of Me, The Bridge (1992), Howard’s End, American Friends etc. All forgotten but equally pedestrian as Mr Turner which is only getting a lot of attention because the British film industry no longer make films like this anymore. It’s strange considering the popularity of the new Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey but there you have it.
Mr Turner is the most visually stunning Mike Leigh film yet and his beautiful recreations of the scenes which inspired the artist’s paintings are incredible. These are of course bolstered by the inclusion of many replicas of Turner’s finest paintings. It’s a shame that like Mike Leigh’s Vera Drake and Topsy Turvy it turned out to be mostly drab and overlong.
5 out of 10 – An acting tour-de-force from Timothy Spall can’t stop this feeling like an over-inflated euro-pudding-style souffle. If this came out 20 years ago it would have been greeted with a shrug. A film out of time. Paint me another Mr Leigh!
Review by Matt ‘paint’ brUsher aka Joe Pesci II below
WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?
- Timothy Spall: The Love Punch, The Rise, Love Bite, Comes a Bright Day, Ginger and Rosa, The King’s Speech, Harry Potter – parts 3 – 8, Wake Wood, Reuniting The Rubins, Heartless, Alice In Wonderland (2011) (voice), Apaloosa, The Damned Utd, Sweeney Todd, Pierrepoint, Lemony Snickets Series of Unfortunate Events, The Last Samurai, Nicholas Nickleby (2002), All Or Nothing, Vanilla Sky, Rock Star, Lucky Break, Chicken Run (voice), Loves Labours Lost, Topsy Turvy, Still Crazy, Wisdom Of Crocodiles, Hamlet (1996), Secrets & Lies, Life Is Sweet, The Sheltering Sky, White Hunter Black Heart, To Kill a Priest, The Missionary, Auf Wierdesen Pet (TV), Quadrophenia
- Marion Bailey: Vera Drake, All or Nothing, Nasty Neighbours, Shine On Harvey Moon (TV), Mean Time
- Dorothy Atkinson: Call The Midwife (TV)
- Paul Jesson: Coriolanus, Rome (TV)
- Martin Savage: Another Year, Topsy Turvy
- Ruth Sheen: SuperBob, Welcome To The Punch, Another Year, Heartless, Hush Your Mouth, All Or Nothing, Vera Drake, The Young Poisoner’s Handbook, High Hopes
- Joshua McGuire: Get Santa, Scrotal Recall (TV), About Time
- Karl Johnson: The Sea, Good Vibrations, The Deep Blue Sea (2011), Third Star, Hot Fuzz, Close My Eyes, Edge Of Love, Pure, Wittgenstein, Let Him Have It, Prick Up Your Ears, The Tempest (1979), Jubilee
- Patrick Godfrey: The Borderlands, The Duchess, The Importance of Being Earnest (2002), The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), Everafter, The Gambler, The Remains Of The Day, Maurice, Clockwise, A Room With A View, Dr Who (TV)
- Karina Fernandez: Pride (2014), Another Year, Happy Go Lucky
- Mark Stanley: Kajaki, Game of Thrones (TV)
- Jamie Thomas King: Tower Block, Storage 24, The Tudors (TV)
- Richard Bremmer: 13th Warrior, The Girl With Brains In Her Feet
- Leo Bill: A Long Way Down, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011), Alice In Wonderland (2010), The Fall, Kinky Boots, 28 Days Later
- Stuart McQuarrie: Isle of Dogs, Blood (2013), Hush
- Sylvestra Le Touzel: Happy Go Lucky, Amazing Grace, Smith & Jones (TV), The Boy From Space (TV)
- Katie O’Flynn: Happy Go Lucky
- Sam Kelly: All or Nothing, Porridge (TV)
- Peter Wight: Kon Tiki, The Look Of Love, My Week With Marilyn, Hardboiled Sweets, Ghosted, Best Laid Plans (2012), Clone, Another Year, Cass, Hot Fuzz, Babel, Flood, Pride & Prejudice (2005), Vera Drake, Shiner, Naked, Mean Time
- Lesley Manville: Maleficent, The Christmas Candle, Ashes, Romeo and Juliet (2013), Spike Island, Clone, Another Year, All Or Nothing, Vera Drake, Topsy Turvy, Secrets and Lies,High Hopes, Sammy & Rosie Get Laid
- James Fleet: The Decoy Bride, Coronation Street (TV), The Vicar Of Dibley (TV), A Cock & Bull Story, The Phantom Of The Opera (2004), Blackball, Charlotte Gray, Kevin & Perry Go Large, Remember Me? (1997), Sense and Sensibility, The Grotesque, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Electric Moon, Blue Black Permanent
- Eileen Davies: Sightseers, Mean Time
- Elizabeth Berrington: Stella (TV), Waterloo Rd (TV), Hard Boiled Sweets, Psychoville (TV), Moving Wallpaper(TV), In Bruges, Nanny McPhee, A Cock and Bull Story, The Office (TV),Quills, The Little Vampire, Mad Cows, Onegin, 8.5 Women, Secrets & Lies, Naked
- Roger Ashton-Griffiths: Game of Thrones (TV)
- Oliver Maltman: Another Year, Happy Go Lucky
- Lee Ingleby: Best Laid Plans (2012), Inspector George Gently (TV), Doghouse, Borstal Boy