TIFF 2014 Review: MR. TURNER

Photo courtesy of TIFF

The story of Romantic landscape painter J.M.W. Turner – influential artist, witty character, neglectful father – that won Timothy Spall the award for Best Actor at Cannes and may prove one of the best performances of 2014.

Country: United Kingdom

Starring: Timothy Spall, Paul Jesson, Marion Bailey, Dorothy Atkinson, Martin Savage

Directed by: Mike Leigh

Genre: Drama

Choice Quote: “In one, the sun is going up, and in one the sun is going down.” – Turner (Spall), when asked the difference between painting a sunrise and a sunset.

The Hype: The story of Romantic landscape painter J.M.W. Turner – influential artist, witty character, neglectful father – that dazzled at Cannes and won Spall the award for Best Actor.

See It At TIFF?: Definitely see it. Mr. Turner is like the landscape paintings the artist’s fame is built on – seemingly simple on the surface, but brimming with insight beneath the brushstrokes.

Spall, as Turner, is masterfully transformative, creating a character that at times proves a poet of light and at others – including when he’s crying, laughing, engaging in conversation, and having sex – resembles an ox in a barnyard (right down to the grunts).

The story begins with Turner in middle-age, re-uniting with his beloved father (Jesson), and resuming his work after being away. From there we get a glimpse into Turner’s private life – a neglectful father, an employer who sleeps with the help when he feels like it, and a man seemingly little-moved by sentimentality.

Then there’s the artist, one of the most influential of any who’ve ever taken up the brush and palette, who is constantly at work except when he’s thrilling onlookers at the Royal Academy or entertaining buyers in his home.

Later in life he travels to a coastal village where he takes up with the innkeeper, Mrs. Booth (Bailey), whose tenderness and gentle soul offers the perfect antithesis to Turner’s curmudgeonly character.

The film is also a fascinating look into the period in which Turner lived – a time when innovations such as the camera, the first glass cathedral, and the railway would begin to shape the western world.

Accompanied by a brilliant cast of co-stars, including Savage as the pestering, hapless painter Benjamin Haydon, Spall steals the show with a performance that will stay with you long after the credits roll.

The Verdict: A performance that can rival any other contenders for Best Actor. Do not miss Spall in Mr. Turner.

Rating (out of 5): 4.5