Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Mr Turner (12A)

I've always believed that it is the young people of today who are tricky to be around when watching a film - given their tendency to chatter, use phones and eat noisily and wot not.

But I take that back.

After my experience watching Mr Turner, it would seem that the older cinema goer needs to have a word with themselves.

It won't be a quiet word, sadly, but a word is needed nonetheless.

We had many a noisy sweet wrapper, whispered comments that could be heard by everyone and at one point someone dropped their lunch box.

Got to love an Orange Wednesday.

Still, on the upside, I'll wager it's patrons such as these that have kept Mr Turner in cinemas for the past two weeks and - at last glance - well into next week too.

Which given it's subject matter, is quite an achievement.

At a time when turtles and mockingjays rule the roost (and sewer), to have a lengthy biopic on one of the nation's foremost landscape painters still filling cinemas quite warms the cockles.

As for the film itself, while it may be long (almost two and a half hours) thanks to the brilliant portrayal by Timothy Spall the time - while not flying by - certainly doesn't drag.

Attempting to span most of Turner's life as an established painter is no small ask, and the way the majority of the supporting cast are passed through like visitors to a museum does mean the film lacks a certain depth.

But that shouldn't detract from the main players.

As I said, Spall is playing the role of his life, while Dorothy Atkinson provides a wonderfully comic turn as Turner's maid/lover.

What we learn about Turner from the film is probably nothing more than is already available in books and online, but Spall gives a somewhat unlikeable man a warmth and humility that balances nicely against his harsher moments.

(He was never in the running for dad of the year, for example.)

The film itself looks - as you'd hope given the subject - amazing, with vast landscapes sweeping before you before the focus closes in on the subject of the scene.

And I do think this is a film that benefits from being seen further back in the cinema.

The one area the film falls down is in the actual story.

Rather than giving us one event in great detail, we are treated to a selection of scenes - with the passing of the years being marked with the changing of the cats.

Now while there's a case to be made for this mirroring looking at the work of Turner (you spend five minutes with one painting then move on), it tends to have the feeling of a tapestry rather than a single great piece.

But that, amazingly, doesn't detract from what was a great film.

Those who know about such things have taken issue with the portrayal of some of the famous people Turner knew (apparently Ruskin was far from a buffoon), but for the rest of us mere mortals he's funny.

And the time really didn't drag.

Given that I was checking my watch inside the first hour of Interstellar, at no point did I find myself wondering how long I had been sitting in my seat.

As Turner's life switches between Margate and London, you go with him happily, enjoying the journey of inspiration giving birth to art.

And that is probably this film's finest triumph.

A man sketching then going home and painting is not the thing of high drama and action, yet Spall and director Mike Leigh provide a masterclass in the detail being the key.

If anyone had told me yesterday I'd be caught up and mesmerised by a man mixing paint and spitting on a canvas I would have laughed.

And I'm laughing now, but that's down to Atkinson's fine timing and facial expressions.

Sure, Spall will get the plaudits and award nominations, but if Atkinson is overlooked then we'll know the critics weren't looking at the whole picture.

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