Starring: Timothy Spall, Paul Jesson, Dorothy Atkinson
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“A magnificent growling-bear performance by Timothy Spall is just one of the masterful brushstrokes in this lusty, physical, spit-and-spunk portrait of JMW Turner from singular British screen artist Mike Leigh. Adventurously wielding a digital palette to echo and invoke the oily grit of their subject’s work (the sight of pigment being ground is profoundly textural), Leigh and cinematographer Dick Pope paint a tactile landscape in which “the sun is God” and steamy science is the future.
Through this ever-changing kingdom of light strides Spall’s vibrantly curmudgeonly Turner, a full figure of fleshy contradictions, both abrasively insular and gregariously outgoing, simultaneously loving and callous, sensitive yet animalistic. For all his authentic 19th-century turns of phrase (the film’s Dickensian language is a joy), Spall’s most expressive utterance is not a word but a growl – a guttural sound that speaks poetic volumes. Never before has “Ghhrrrrr” meant so much or conveyed such depth of character.”
Mark Kermode, The Guardian