At The Omniplex: ‘Mr Turner’

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Cannes 2014: Mr Turner‘Mr. Turner’

By John Lyons

SINCE mid-October, every time I’ve made a trip to the cinema, a poster for ‘Mr. Turner’ has greeted me in the hallway.

And every time I saw it, I got really excited. Not because of the film’s subject matter, but because it’s the new film from acclaimed English director, Mike Leigh.

Mike Leigh has had a long and impressive career writing and directing his own films on the fringes of the British Film Industry.

Typically, you’d catch his films airing late at night on Film4. They’re the kinds of films that you watch the first ten minutes of as you’re about to fall asleep, but before you know it, you’ve watched the whole thing.

The release date for ‘Mr. Turner’ was Halloween, but after Halloween came and went, I just assumed that the film simply wasn’t coming.

So imagine my surprise this week when I saw that ‘Mr. Turner’ was screening at 9pm Friday night. I knew it’d be the film that I would be reviewing this week.

Admittedly though, while I was excited about seeing ‘Mr. Turner’ simply because it was the new Mike Leigh film. In reality, all I knew about ‘Mr. Turner’ was that it was about the life of a painter…

I quickly discovered how extremely little I knew about the film once it started. Turns out it’s a period drama of sorts, and I wouldn’t consider myself to be the biggest fan of period dramas.

The film follows the career of renowned painter William Turner in the early 19th century.

As I was watching the film, I began to reflect on something that filmmaker Quentin Tarantino once said: “Nobody’s life story is interesting enough to be fleshed out into a feature length film”. For the initial half hour of the film, I was beginning to think that his theory was right. Mainly because there was seemingly no ‘story’ to speak of.

I was starting to worry, especially because I knew that the film was two and a half hours long.

But sure enough, despite the lack of story, and the slow pacing, I found myself getting really caught up in the film.

The star of the film, Timothy Spall, gives a performance of a lifetime that’s more than deserving of an Oscar nomination.

As exciting as it is watching Turner craft his paintings from scratch while maintaining his elusiveness, what’s more interesting is watching him interact with the supporting characters — namely his father, his housemaid and his love interest.

The film specialises in the intricate relationships between the cast of characters, rather than dramatising major events from Turner’s life, like most bio-pics would normally do.

But the most impressive thing about the film is that it manages change your perspective of Turner throughout.

Over the course of two and a half hours, my feelings towards Mr. Turner ranged from sympathy, to disgust, to pure bewilderment.

‘Mr. Turner’ is an intense character study and an incredible glimpse into the life of an isolated, reclusive, yet extremely talented artist. The cast is exceptional, the cinematography is wonderful, and the characters are captivating.

‘Mr. Turner’ is a wonderful little film that caters very specifically to period drama lovers. It’s a lovely breath of fresh air to go the the cinema and see a film that’s completely devoid of all the cliches and that we’ve become all too accustomed to.

It’s been a long time since I’ve gone to see something like ‘Mr. Turner’, and I certainly hope that this isn’t the last film that we’ll be seeing from Mike Leigh.


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