Mr. Turner

February 20, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Timothy Spall, Paul Jesson, Dorothy Atkinson
Directed by: Mike Leigh (“Topsy-Turvy”)
Written by: Mike Leigh (“Vera Drake”)

Please don’t paint me as uncultured if I say “Mr. Turner” is a tough nut to crack. Meandering somewhat aimlessly through the last 20 years or so in the life of painter J.M.W Turner–played as a grunting, curiously strange sort of 19th century art-world troll by Timothy Spall—the film looks beautiful and the canvas is overflowing with small details, yet the light watercolors of the production design are diminished by the dense glob of oil paint that is the title character.

“Mr. Turner” concerns the life of the renowned British landscape painter and his various eccentricities. The film follows Turner as he paints, ignores his children, has sexual relations with his housekeeper, aggravates the stuffy Royal Academy of Arts, carries on an affair with a widow in a seaside town, and loses his beloved father. Gruff and off-putting with seemingly few redeeming qualities outside of a gift for handling a brush, Turner seems to be the prototype for every exceptional artist who comes across as a human being you wouldn’t necessarily want to spend time with.

Director and screenwriter Mike Leigh intentionally leaves many aspects of Turner opaque, presenting a central character with unexplored oddities such as his callous dismissal of his children, his incredible love for his father, and the anonymity he strives for when traveling. Cinematographer Dick Pope (or Dick Poop, as he was famously called when his Oscar nomination for the film was announced), fills the frame with images as fine as Turner himself would paint, even if the subject at hand doesn’t quite live up to the attention paid to it. Spall is magnetic if sometimes unintelligible (I had to turn on subtitles on my DVD screener) as Turner, but viewers looking for a clear picture of what made the artist tick may be disappointed that the finer details are lost in the broad strokes.

Another Year

February 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, Lesley Manville
Directed by: Mike Leigh (“Happy-Go-Lucky”)
Written by: Mike Leigh (“Happy-Go-Lucky”)

It’s always a breath of fresh air when a filmmaker offers audiences a glimpse into the lives of fictional characters who could easily be everyday people. There’s no glitz or glamour in the way 7-time Academy Award-nominated director/writer Mike Leigh presents his intimate stories, but it’s in his own quiet style and that he creates fascinating and realistic situations with such precision and craft.

In “Another Year,” which recently earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, Leigh’s simple and bittersweet narrative wears its heart on its sleeve. The emotional, character-based drama stars Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen as happily married Brits Tom and Gerri, one of the most well-matched couples your ever likely to meet on screen or in real life. Tom and Gerri are content, comfortable, and most importantly, in love.

While their lives are as pleasant as can be, Tom and Gerri are surrounded by friends and family that haven’t quite figured where to find their own happiness. The couple nurtures them as much as possible, but there is only so much someone can do before third-party misery begins to affect everything it comes into contact with.

In a scene-stealing role, Lesley Manville plays Gerri’s coworker and friend Mary, a high-strung, desperate, and deeply depressed middle-aged woman who feel time has rudely passed her by. The emotional connection she has with Tom and Gerri when she visits their quaint home is one of friendship and neediness. As much as she rambles and drinks, Tom and Gerri are more than hospitable to her and never let her neuroticism get in the way of their ability to be good company.

But as the seasons pass during this ordinary year, Tom and Gerri find themselves brimming with people who need their attention. Their son Joe (Oliver Maltman) has found a girlfriend they both adore and Tom’s brother Ronnie (David Bradley) is left helpless when he loses his wife. It becomes only a matter of time before Tom and Gerri must prioritize their life and make difficult decisions about who they can let into their joyful little world without feeling overworked.

“Another Year” is filled with sadness, but not in a way that’s going to drag audiences down. Leigh doesn’t offer much hope at the end, but instead gets his richly-written characters to a point where they can move onto the next year knowing where they stand with one another. It’s a message that most affable people won’t care for (“Life’s not always kind”), but one that is true nonetheless.