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MOVIE REVIEW: FTN reviews Mr Turner

November 2nd, 2014 by Conor ONeill Comments

Mr. Turner (15)
Directed by: Mike Leigh
Starring: Timothy Spall, Paul Jesson & Dorothy Atkinson
Running time: 150 mins

EVER think you’re a Philistine, some sort of Neanderthal who hopes his wardrobe will come back into fashion before they hit fifty? Well today I did.

I read the reviews in prep for my turn of events and was thrown wildly with expectation by others critics’ reviews of this movie. The Guardian offers: ‘What a glorious film this is;’ The Telegraph announces: ‘It’s a remarkable piece of hugely detailed characterisation that highlights Turner’ idiosyncrasies and contradictions’… I could go on but you get the picture. Maybe the weight of expectation had my hopes on Viagra on a first date kiss.

This flick, charting the later life of the great painter JMW Turner, has earned Spall winner of Best Actor at Cannes this year. Roughly two and a half hours of the same thing/theme and tone… did I mention the plot? Forget it. There simply isn’t one. Spall, of Harry Potter, The King’s Speech and many more, plays Turner with an understated yet gregarious sense of threat and promise with a sense of passion you could never believe him to be. But. I repeat. But! He’s playing the same scene again and again. He’s either touching up or carousing with his house-maid, grunting and repeatedly grunting at his family or those he believes to be under his intelligence or sailing somewhere to make sketches.

Directed by Oscar nominated Mike Leigh – list too long to mention – it is gorgeous to watch. Every scene a cupid to the eye, but the same scene occurs too often; we travel from Holland to Belgium, London to Margate with no explanation sent to inform us why… we simply watch Spall/Turner carry a simple bag round these places with no inform as to reasons why, except of course to catch his favourite sketches of the white cliffs of Margate, the rough and tumble seas of the sea, boats and rolling waters.

The dialogue is tight, very. Tighter than the hangman’s noose. Rarely, apart from the odd astute and graded English of the son of a barber’s retort from Turner, do we hear anything resembling 21st century spoken English. I’m not aside from a good period drama, a good film is a good film, but the lines are too well thought over to be considered practical or of common use to be classed as believable.

The soundtrack is as expected withdrawn, classical, with the odd hullaballoo to sliver your hopes of a right old knees up and debauchery… unfortunately my sound track, after one hour, was the dulcet yet annoying snores of the reviewer sat in front of me. I think I may have joined him if only my curiosity hadn’t compelled me to watch to the end? And there are some great scenes in this film, I don’t deny that. One worthy of type is when Turner goes to a flop-house to hire a prostitute to pose for him and breaks down.

But there’re so many things left unresolved: why was he so barren of emotion to his wedded wife and children; why did he find Margate’s Mrs Booth so attractive; why did he go off painting during a family tragedy? Of these we’re told nothing.

A sterling cast including Paul Jesson and Dorothy Atkinson to name two plus another 15 more attempt to bring a life so full of subplots to life, yet the weight of the world lies on Spall to deliver what is in layman’s term a beautifully directed movie rudderless.

Two out of Five Nerds

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Conor O'Neill is at times a playwright and a qualified journalist. He has worked for the Belfast Telegraph, Portadown Times and South Belfast Advertiser. He also contributes to various online e-zines, specialising in theatre, gig reviews and other cultural events. If you were to ask him what he does, he will say 'I'm functioning'... that's a lie. Best suited to pressure and deadlines, O'Neill thrives on the moment, the passion and the thrill of now, he's only happy when he's watching or reviewing a play.