In this rigorously well-researched, resolutely unsentimental portrait of the nineteenth-century landscape painter, Timothy Spall’s “grunting, squinting”, Falstaffian portrayal of Joseph Mallord William Turner is an absolute delight. The film is testament to critic Paul Byrnes’ pithy observation that “great art may pour from an unexpected vessel”.
The breadth of Mike Leigh’s assured biopic takes us from the minutiae of preparing canvases in a domestic set-up that includes Turner’s long-suffering yet ever-faithful housekeeper, Hannah Danby (Dorothy Atkinson), to barbed verbal sparring with the likes of John Constable (James Fleet) at the Royal Academy. Most unexpectedly of all, it reveals Turner’s sly, heartfelt wooing that wins over a widow of sympathetic temperament, Sophia Booth (Marion Bailey), with whom he finds rare happiness in his sunset years.
“We see…Turner the showman and braggart, but Leigh also gives us Turner the tender, especially in his relationship with his loving father William (Paul Jesson)...Every scene in the film crackles with Mike Leigh’s instinct for dramatic comedy and layered theme, but Mr. Turner is also startlingly beautiful to behold.” Paul Byrnes, The Age
“Glorious. Richly and immediately enjoyable. An outstanding performance from Spall” The Guardian
18 Jul - 28 Jul
Having tackled Gilbert and Sullivan in 1999’s Topsy Turvy, Mike Leigh turns his penetrating directorial gaze to another great artist of the Victorian era. In a richly spirited and breezily entertaining biopic based on the life of English painter, J.M.W. Turner, Timothy Spall embodies the artist with unabashed brio. His performance earned the accomplished thespian (and frequent Leigh collaborator) the Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival.