Mark Kermode

Great Artist Mr. Turner, Thumbs Nose at Establishment in Rousing Mike Leigh Flick

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.

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The New Film 'Begin Again' Is Full of Charm

After Inside Llewyn Davis, here's Outside Keira Knightley. John Carney's latest tale of random hearts brought together by song may not have the rough-and-ready brilliance of Once (or a tune to match Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová's Oscar winning Falling Slowly) but it does a surprisingly good job of making us believe in the slightly preposterous idea of KK recording an album on the streets of New York.

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