Mike Leigh’s film, Mr. Turner is a biopic of 19th century British landscape painter J.M.W. Turner (full name Joseph Mallord William Turner). The film covers Turner’s last 25 years. Turner specialty was the sea, often painting shipwrecks, and natural phenomena like sunlight, storms, rain, and fog. One scene shows Turner being roped up the mast of a ship during a storm to better reproduce the experience on canvas. As played by Timothy Spall, Turner is a unactractive man who mumbles, snores, growls and coughs every phrase he speaks, and spits on his paintings to achieve the right effects. We see Turner living with his father (Paul Jesson), a former barber who became his assistant. He gets visits from an angry woman (Ruth Sheen) who angrily claims he fathered her two daughters. He has sex with Hannah, his housekeeper (a very theatrical performance by Dorothy Atkinson). Travelling to Chelsea, he rents a room from Mr.and Mrs. Booth. In later years he and the widowed Mrs. Booth (Marion Bailey) become lovers. At other times Mr. Turner visits museum and argues loudly with other artists. It is a uneventfull film. But Mr. Turner is a character study rather than conventional biopic. No matter how taciturn and grumpy, Mr. Turner still smiles when he sees cute children. And Mr. Turner cries when he’s sad. One of the most touching moment comes when his father dies. And in the eyes of Mrs. Booth, he is the best man there is. Thanks to Spall and Bailey, their on-screen chemistry is priceless. British director Mike Leigh has yet again succeeded in recreating a long gone era so well, we have the feeling we are witnessing it. As he did previously with such films as Topsy-Turvy and Vera Drake, he has put together a team of set decorators, costumers and makeup and hair artists who have done wonders. J.M.W. Turner art was innovative and his paintings saw beauty amongst the storms and tempests. The work of cinematographer Dick Pope lets you see the beauty he saw and why he wanted to paint it. Mr. Turner is a slow-moving film that won’t please everyone, but its crafts and its artistry will appeal to some.
And the Oscar went to… Mr. Turner lost the Oscar for Production design, Costume design and Original score. All three went to The grand Budapest hotel. It lost the Cinematography award to Birdman or (The unexpected virtue of ignorance).