150 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back. That’s all I can think about having just sat through 2 and a half hours of Timothy Spall grunting and painting whilst toing and froing between a 1800s Margate and London town. Mr. Turner is a biopic of the 19th Century British painter Joseph Mallard William Turner’s career and personal life during his last twenty something years.
Spall won Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year for his portrayal of the painter who was renowned for his revolutionary watercolour landscape paintings. Spall even spent two years learning how to paint like Turner, diagnosis also known as the ‘painter of light’. The film sees how Turner copes with the death of his beloved father who was among his few true friends, the dysfunctional relationship between Turner and his housekeeper, Turner’s negligence of his two daughters and his friendship turned romance with a seaside landlady whose arms he eventually dies in.
The film’s visual team save the day with some beautiful cinematography and stunning scenic shots. But what’s aesthetically beautiful can mean nothing without a solid story beneath it. While imagery is a huge part of the success of a movie, the backbone of a great film is the story being told which Mr. Turner doesn’t have.
The only emotions that were evoked in me were those of boredom, despair and desperation for Mr. Turner’s character to finally pass away after a long-winded illness. There were times when, as a fan of painting, I felt the urge to pick up a paintbrush myself once I got home and create a masterpiece, however, the urge to write down my feelings about the movie were far greater.
If the producer could’ve shaved the film down by an hour it would have passed as bearable. While I sympathise with the idea of fitting the last 20 years or so of a man’s life into a feature-length film I do not agree that many of the moments that occurred in Mr. Turner’s life were essential in making the film complete. I think the fact the film had so little story and emotion involved begs the question; was there ever a great story to bring to life worth creating a biopic of 19th Century painter J.M.W.Turner for?