Mr. Turner. 2014. Great Britain. Directed by Mike Leigh. 150 min.
Timothy Spall gives a career-defining performance as J. M. W. Turner, the British painter whose proto-modern aesthetic—an imaginative and expressive study of the effects of light, weather, and industry on color and form—elevated landscape and maritime painting to the stature of history painting and portraiture in the first half of the 19th century. Mike Leigh’s life of the artist is phlegmatic, tender, comical, fearless, and passionate, whether in reenacting the brawls of the Academy or strife of a more domestic sort with Turner’s spurned wife and children, recording painterly impressions of the boats moored in Margate at dawn or sharing an intimate moment with a fragile young woman over a love of Purcell. Dick Hope’s photography is an achievement in itself, evoking Turner’s inimitable, vaporous light, and arcing toward the sublime. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.