I love Turner’s paintings. And Timothy Spall is a fine actor. It turns out, however, that two-and-a-half hours of the combination is not quite necessary.

Very little actually happens in Mr. Turner, evidently because very little happened in Turner’s later life. Instead, we are given impressions: of a gruff, ugly man who communicates chiefly in grunts, of the bright, light-drenched world in which he lives, of his unconventional but ultimately dull family situation. This is well executed, and, particularly, the scene that heralds the painting of “The Fighting Temeraire” is breathtakingly beautiful. Additionally, the scenes of painters in the Royal Academy, bickering and jostling, are perfectly gripping and undignified. There is a moment between Turner and John Constable that is still convulsing me. There is also, unfortunately, about two hours more of movie. And that is too much. Way too much.

Stray notes:

  • This film is so Victorian it hurts. And it went unflinchingly with a plain Queen Victoria and non-Rupert-Friend Prince Albert, which is laudable if disappointing.
  • Turner’s father, a barber, is so charming and lovable.
  • Seriously, the “Fighting Temeraire.”

Director: Mike Leigh
Rating: R
Length: 150 min., and easily 30 min. too long
Score: 3/5.