A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mr. Turner is a period biopic about acclaimed English painter J.M.W. Turner, whose landscapes helped pave the way for the Impressionist movement. Director Mike Leigh focuses on Turner's (Timothy Spall) last few decades, revealing the depths of his talent and his complicated personal life. Characters in this engrossing but slow-moving film often drink wine and sometimes smoke (accurate for the era), and some scenes include sex, with a naked thrusting backside. For all his talent, Turner isn't a particularly admirable character, but the film's message about being true to your art is worth thinking about.
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What's the story?
Director Mike Leigh's biopic MR. TURNER traces the last few decades in the life of acclaimed English painter J.M.W. Turner. While Turner was renowned for his Romantic landscapes, which heralded the burgeoning Impressionist movement, actor Timothy Spall explores the artist's personal side, offering up a portrait of a boorish, complicated brute who barely speaks, abandons his children, takes advantage of his housekeepers, maligns his fellow painters, and is mostly unlikable -- except when he is. He's dedicated to his paintings, but the pursuit of art is much more straightforward than his relationships.
Is it any good?
Mr. Turner is a visually arresting movie that exceeds expectations when it comes to exploring and presenting the great painter's art, suffusing it with the light and energy his work is known for. However, the film confounds in its portrayal of the man. No doubt much of this has to do with Turner himself, whose complicated, difficult childhood produced a complicated, difficult man. But it also has something to do with how he's written. Spall is a delight as the crude, eccentric Turner, but he's also opaque, delighting with specificities but falling short when it comes to making the artist reachable.
This, perhaps, has to do with the story itself, which has flashes of humor and historic insight, ably shepherded by Leigh, but goes on for too long, weighing down a fascinating film about a fascinating man and leaving it wanting. Similarly to how Turner communicates, less would have been more.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the artist J.M.W. Turner. What did you learn about his life from Mr. Turner? Were you aware of him before seeing the movie? How accurate do you think the film is? Why might filmmakers tweak the facts in movies based on true stories?
What do you think about the way the film approaches its subject? Did the pacing help you appreciate the languid act of creating art? How does Spall bring the character to life?
How is sex depicted in the movie? Is it romantic? What function does it serve for the characters?
- In theaters: December 19, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: May 5, 2015
- Cast: Timothy Spall, Paul Jesson, Dorothy Atkinson
- Director: Mike Leigh
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Arts and Dance, History
- Run time: 149 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some sexual content
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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