Mr. Turner movie reviewed!

a page from JMW Turner's sketchbook, Tate Gallery, UK

Timothy Spall became Joseph Mallard William Turner, the artist on screen in full flesh. Yes, the fullest! You see, his Mr. Turner was a physically large bellied stoutish aging man who grumbles his way between London and Margate.  I went to see Mr. Turner without knowing much of anything about the artist’s life. I soon raced home afterwards to piece together the left out, overlooked, altered or forgotten aspects of this man’s life. I couldn’t find anything earth shattering that Director Mike Leigh has left out! I will not ruin it for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. I will just talk endlessly about what I visually loved about the film and various characters. Did I hate or dislike anything about the movie? No, nothing truly disheartened me or made me ask why would someone do that on screen? The only small irksome thing was the portrayal of nineteenth century photographer/daguerreotypist, J.J. Mayall as American when he was British born. Other than that, his appearance was a fantastic surprising scene to watch; and oh, so hilarious! 

From the opening scene of the windmill on Lewisham Hill, to the end at his home at Margate, Mr. Turner was visually breathtaking to behold. You are introduced to Mr. Turner as he walks home to his home he shares with his ailing father and housekeeper. He has a warm and loving relationship with his father, whom he physically resembles; brilliantly acted by Paul Jesson.  For example, the scene at their home meeting Mary Somerville, a natural philosopher, played by Lesley Manville, shows a shared love of nature, art, and philosophy. As the conversation grows, Turner’s father beams proudly as he brags about his painter son’s education and accomplishments as he never went to school and didn’t know much! So very touching and heartwarming; then later when they enter Turner’s drawing room to look at his paintings on the walls, the artistic observations are poignant and hilarious. 

My heart almost leapt out of my chest during every scene at the Royal Academy; seriously, I sat hunched forward with my back away from the padded seat, eyes observing every inch of the room studded with paintings, now famous 19th century painter’s painting away on the canvases and crowded around various paintings chatting away stating their own opinions. A wonderfully funny scene between friends and allies Constable and Turner greeting each other; oh, all those men in top hats at once, my heart could only handle so much at a time! 

There was one aspect of Turner’s life portrayed in the movie very strongly depicting him as a man who abandoned his ex-lover Sarah Danby and two grown daughters. Several different scenes with an angry and confrontational Sarah Danby and Mr. Turner asking for money to help her support them when he never outwardly acknowledges having children. He rather represents himself as a Bohemian at heart gallivanting around town, painting landscapes and taking private sessions with prostitutes as models which bring him to tears of loneliness, anger, sorrow, who knows?  Either way, Mr. Turner is seen as human, flawed, and fragile until he meets the woman he calls his wife, in Margate, a widowed Mrs. Booth changes everything and old Turner is forced to come to terms with his own sexual needs and eventually his own sense of self. The scenes in seaside Margate, in a little house by the water as Mrs. Booth cleaned and catered to his every whim and Turner painted outdoors in all kinds of weather is worth the ticket price alone! I wanted to be a lodger in that old house by the sea but I’m sure I would only get in the way. 

There are scenes with art critic and painter, John Ruskin that still leave me confused and bewildered. I won’t give away the reasons why for I will leave that up to you!


WoofWoof said…
Hi Kimberley - I also enjoyed the film for all the little details you describe. Leigh is masterful in the way he recreates Victorian London. However the film was spoiled for me by the sex scene with the housekeeper - it was shocking. I wonder what evidence there is that Turner was having relations with her let alone in such an abusive way, tantamount to rape really. I also felt the film was a little bit plodding. A few flashbacks to his childhood in the barber's shop would have been interesting. It was fascinating to see Benjamin Haydon depicted in the film as I have always been interested in him (he was a friend of both Keats and Wordsworth and brought the two together for their one meeting).
Laura Morrigan said…
I can't wait to see it!
Kimberly Eve said…
Hi WoofWoof,
Yes, that sex scene did surprise me. At first, I thought it might be a fantasy scene for the housekeeper but it wasn't! I know of only rumors described about a possible relationship between Turner and his housekeeper with more of a crush on her end in some of his biographies but who knows!
Oh, yes Benjamin Haydon, I admit looking him up as I wasn't familiar with him. Some very interesting scenes between them.
Kimberly Eve said…
Hi Laura,
Great to see you here. I hope you enjoy Mr. Turner and thanks for commenting!