What I Thought About Mr. Turner

The night before last my hubby and I watched Mr. Turner. I knew it was critically acclaimed and about the mid-nineteenth century painter JMW Turner. While I couldn’t have named any of Turner’s paintings beforehand (and not really even now) I was familiar with his style and I liked it enough to remember the spirit of his work if not the specifics.

The things I liked about the movie: Timothy Spall’s performance was excellent, his grunts and mumblings were so expressive that you knew what he was saying even if you couldn’t understand it completely. And the cinematography was beautiful! There were specific vignettes that just had the feel of a painting (and in some cases were drawn from Turner’s actual works) and the color, light, and costumes were just so mood setting.

The Burning of the Houses of Parliament [detail: 1] Painted by: Joseph Mallord William Turner Location: Philadelphia Museum Of Art, Philadelphia, PA courtesy of http://www.william-turner.org
What I wished there was more of: a cohesive plot. I got the jist of Turner’s life, but it was definitely from the perspective of an outsider observing it. There was no sense of his motivations, plus I would’ve liked to see more of his painting. I did like that Timpothy Spall learned to paint for this role (according to his interview on Graham Norton’s talk show), but it would be cool to see him more in the moment.

All in all I’d recommend this movie. Turner was at times abrasive and he didn’t seem to have done right by either his ex lover or his housekeeper, but the relationship with his father, his fall from the Academy’s graces, and just the sheer beauty of the film give a round enough picture of him to make it worth it.