Mike Leigh’s new film, a period piece like Topsy-Turvy, took a long time to finance but was clearly worth it in the end. It’s subject, of course, is England’s greatest painter, an eccentric genius whose odd life almost measured up to his extraordinary art. If Tim Spall was not the obvious choice to play the painter, he certainly confounds any doubts one might have had. It is an exemplary performance and a fine cast supports him well. The film looks great, thanks to Dick Pope’s cinematography which at times almost emulates Turner’s use of light and shade, and to production designer Suzie Davies who makes the most of what was hardly a generous budget. The film is two and a half hours long but seldom drags as Turner struggles manfully with his life and art. It’s a real achievement from Leigh and clearly deserves something from the international jury headed by Australian director Jane Campion. Fascinating, right down to the smallest detail, often used to illustrate the film’s major themes.