Mike Leigh’s biopic of British artist J.M.W. Turner is a beautifully drawn portrait and some might even consider it his best film to date.
MR TURNER (12: Entertainment One) focuses on the painter’s last 25 years when he was already a celebrated name with eccentric habits and a complicated private life.
Despite facing personal losses and declining health, he embraces innovative new approaches to painting that provoke controversy in the arts establishment, but lead to the creation of several masterpieces. Deliberately sketchy, it’s not the sort of by-the-numbers biopic that Hollywood churns out in batches, and that makes it even truer to the spirit of the Romantic period when it takes place.
Timothy Spall delivers a majestic performance, capturing both Turner’s quicksilver intelligence and energy but also his coarse manners. Much of his dialogue consists of expressive grunts and growls, like a pig suffering a bad bout of indigestion.
Leigh’s deft handling of actors and humour is plain to see and there’s none of the satirical sneering that’s a trademark of much of his work.
> Comedy drama THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU (15: Warner) is very watchable, even if the story doesn’t take us anywhere particularly surprising.
Four siblings return home for their father’s funeral and are reunited with their overbearing mother. Each brings unresolved personal crises and as they observe the Jewish ritual of Shiva, the traditional mourning period, they are forced to deal with each other’s secrets and mistakes.
Bateman is the focus of the film that rests on a trio of hilarious performances, and he has touching chemistry with Rose Byrne, playing a local girl. Adam Driver’s wild child has the most fun, closely followed by Jane Fonda as the uncomfortably frank matriarch, but Tina Fey gets a lot of the best lines as the eldest sibling.
You can’t help but be drawn in by these characters and the message that there is no such thing as”normal”. If only the script had been a little more daring, this could have been something very special.
> A couple (Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, reunited after Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle) move to North Carolina during the Great Depression to set up a logging empire in SERENA (15: Studio Canal).
After a whirlwind courtship, Lawrence becomes a driving force in her husband’s timber business. Unfortunately, a child he has sired with an employee haunts their relationship. Lawrence is sensational, but the whole story feels abbreviated and Sean Harris, Rhys Ifans and Toby Jones are squandered in roles that do little more than advance the plot.
There’s pulse-racing peril at the close, yet Serena is like the bare bones of a magnificent tragedy, although there are enough flashes of the film it might have been to make it worth watching.
> Rosie and Alex (Lily Collins and Sam Claflin) have been platonic best friends since childhood, but face being separated when they head to different universities in fluffy rom-com LOVE, ROSIE (15: Lionsgate).
Over the years, life-changing events and their own misunderstandings conspire to keep them apart and the film exists in a world only found in romantic comedies – pretty people living out stories of increasing improbability to a chirpy soundtrack. Children, marriages, even deaths, are seen as nothing more than obstacles to this near-miss love affair, to the point where you either get swept up in it all or disengage completely.