Turner is a popular painter in early-to-mid 1800s, but beneath his well-respected reputation lies a tortured mind. At odds with much of his family, he spends his time alone with his work except when he occasionally exploits his housekeeper, who is secretly in love with him. The film follows Turner as he travels the countryside, stirs controversy among the artistic establishment, and pursues a romance with a widow.
For his work in Mr. Turner, Spall won the Best Actor award at Cannes.
This film provides examples of:
- Ambiguous Disorder: As Turner ages, he becomes ever more ill-mannered and eccentric. It's implied that he's senile by the end of the film.
- Attention Whore: Turner's antics at the Royal Academy show definite signs of this.
- Deadpan Snarker: Turner and several of his artist friends.
- Desperately Craves Affection: A likely motive for Turner's awful behavior.
- Downer Ending: Turner dies at an old age, tortured by illness and possibly insane. Both of the women in his life are left heartbroken and alone.
- Entitled Bastard: Turner.
- Gratuitous Rape: Turner randomly rapes his maid and it's never mentioned again.
- The Hero Dies: If you can call Turner a hero.
- His Own Worst Enemy: Turner's problems are all the result of his own actions; if he simply bothered to treat others better, he would be enormously more respected by everyone from his family to his fellow artists.
- Insufferable Genius: Turner, though he often manages to hide it.
- Jerkass: Perhaps Turner's defining trait.
- Kick the Dog: Everything Turner does to his housekeeper, Danby.
- Manchild: Turner, especially when we see him in the Royal Academy.
- Mean Boss: Turner, towards Hannah Danby.
- Parental Neglect: Turner refuses to admit that he's fathered two daughters and pointedly ignores them whenever their mother brings them along to demand financial support.
- Pet the Dog: On the other hand, Turner seems genuinely loving toward Sophia Booth. He also impulsively gives Haydon a handout near the end of the film.
- Platonic Prostitution: Turner visits a brothel to sketch the prostitutes.
- Scenery Porn: Both Turner's paintings and the film itself.
- Sour Outside, Sad Inside: The key element of Turner's character. His misanthropic, cruel personality hides a mind tortured by loss, insecurity about sexuality, and fears about his art.
- True Art Is Incomprehensible: In-universe, Turner's reputation as an artist starts to suffer when his style becomes more abstract.