MR TURNER – a review

I love Turner’s paintings. Sometimes one sees a much-exalted painting by a master and there’s a faint feeling of disappointment, but Turner’s luminous, hazy cauldrons of fiery suns, thundering seas and ghostly ships inevitably fill me with open-mouthed wonder. I also deeply admire the art of Timothy Spall, an actor’s actor if ever there was.

Thus, I’ve been eagerly waiting to see the film ‘MR TURNER’.

Spall does not disappoint, his characterisation is magnificent, he gives an unintentional lesson in acting that even Brando would bow to, it’s truly an Oscar winning performance, astounding. Visually, the film is perfect in its recreation of both the physical – the streets, house interiors and the ephemeral – the manners, affectations and social systems of England in the mid 1850s, utterly believable.

But somehow, perhaps it is the fault of the subject himself, the film fails to excite, indeed it’s actually baffling. As the credits role, you know you’ve seen a masterclass in acting, but the total is underwhelming.

Turner really was a dreadful, albeit driven person, apart from his incredible painting skills, you wouldn’t want him as a friend, let alone as a parent or partner. When he finally, gruntingly agrees to move in to a riverside cottage with his lover, I fleetingly thought of Rolf Harris, who also lives (well usually!) by the Thames – Turner was that sort of person, beware the feet of clay.

I suspect that’s the cause of my lack of empathy with the film, apart from his paintings, which unfortunately cannot figure on film, as they display in a gallery, there is nothing uplifting about the film, no profound moment, no grand revelation, not even a climax and God help Turner’s women when it came to that!

Watching ‘MR TURNER’ was like being forced to read and hear of somebody’s ‘dirty linen’, there was nothing attractive to take away. But for all that, as I said to an artist friend on New Year’s Eve, “In spite of what I’ve said, don’t miss it, the acting is stunning and it does help understand more of what drove a magnificent artist, who also just happened to be a hideous failure as a human being”.

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