This biopic about the English painter J.M.W. Turner opens with a gauzy long shot, of two women strolling down a country lane, that immediately evokes the radically diffused lighting of his late canvases. Yet the balance of the movie, written and directed by the great social realist Mike Leigh, actively works against the ethereal qualities of Turner's work, presenting a portrait of the artist as an old arsehole. Timothy Spall gives an admirably warty and unpleasant performance as Turner, an arrogant and uncompromising man who's annoyed by his celebrity in Britain but shocked when the public turns against his work (in one memorable scene he glowers helplessly at a music-hall sketch as it turns into a lampoon of his paintings). Among the fine supporting cast are Marion Bailey as an old widow who becomes the object of Turner's affection and Dorothy Atkinson as a housekeeper who's the object of his absentminded sexual groping.
Director: Mike Leigh
Producer: Georgina Lowe, Tessa Ross, Norman Merry and Gail Egan
Cast: Timothy Spall, Dorothy Atkinson, Marion Bailey, Paul Jesson, Lesley Manville, Martin Savage, Joshua McGuire, Ruth Sheen, David Horovitch, Karl Johnson, Sandy Foster, Amy Dawson, Richard Bremmer and Niall Buggy