Gauche and hoary biopic conventions exist for the sole purpose of simplifying a person's life and personality into a streamlined narrative and an inspirational, one-sentence tagline. In his biopic of the successful 19th-century painter J.M.W. Turner, writer-director Mike Leigh takes a completely different approach, embracing his subject's myriad contradictions and often inexplicable behavior as essential to his life and art. Timothy Spall gives a career-defining performance as Turner, turning the slovenly and secretive artist into a Victorian-era version of the Beast, a combustible mix of proper manners and guttural selfishness, with a teeming inner life of desire and denial, sensitivity and self-loathing, curiosity and contempt. Leigh and his Oscar-nominated cinematographer Dick Pope beautifully recreate the fog-smeared landscapes and hazy colors of Turner's paintings, and the effect is like watching J.M.W. Turner stomp and growl and sketch his way through the contours of his own imagination.