Cannes review: Mr Turner

Leigh manages to echo art in the cinematography, with paintings seamlessly segueing into scenes
Timothy Spall in a scene from Mr Turner. Courtesy Cannes Film Festival
Timothy Spall in a scene from Mr Turner. Courtesy Cannes Film Festival

Mr Turner

Director: Mike Leigh

Starring: Timothy Spall, Dorothy Atkinson, Ruth Sheen

JMW Turner (Timothy Spall), one of Britain’s greatest artists, is the subject of Mike Leigh’s new biopic at Cannes, which serves up an in-depth analysis of the legendary figure’s career, craft and relationships, examining the way he interacts with his housekeeper Hannah Danby (Dorothy Atkinson), his former mistress Sarah Danby (Ruth Sheen) and, his illegitimate daughters Evelina and Georgina (Sandy Foster and Amy Dawson).

Spall has obviously given his all to the role, despite dialogue consisting mostly of grunts, while Atkinson is spellbinding as the abrasive, long-abused housekeeper.

Although Leigh is no stranger to biopics (he directed the BAFTA-winning and Oscar-nominated Vera Drake, 2004), here he seems to struggle with setting up a proper introduction to his main character. That said, the film is visually stunning and Leigh masterfully links together art and cinematography, with paintings seamlessly segueing into scenes. Mr Turner will be well received by those with a knowledge of British art history; other lesser souls might struggle with it, despite the fantastic imagery and outstanding ­performances.

Khalid Al Mahmood is an independent filmmaker who has been working in the UAE since 2001

artslife@thenational.ae

Published: May 18, 2014 04:00 AM

SHARE