Some have found the film boring. With all due respect, I would suggest that their attention span and ability to follow a quiet movie has been destroyed by too many blockbusters with ear splitting music and enormous special effects. Most of the film consists of Turner doing what artists do - walking, watching, sketching, thinking, working. It's the real drama of a working artist, not the artificial drama of Hollywood.
Leigh does not flinch in portraying Turner's relationships with women - as cruel and casual as any in that era. His poor housekeeper, mutely adoring, becomes more and more consumed with eczema and loneliness. Yet, he never kicked her out, even though she was so eaten up with eczema that she had to wear a veil and was a terrible house keeper to boot. From a biography on him, I found out that he left her several drawings and 600 pounds in his will, a very significant sum for the time.
Ruth Sheen portrays his estranged mistress as angry and self-righteous, trying to get more money from Turner and recognition that her two daughters are his; Turner always denied that they were. On his visits to Margate, where he lives in domestic bliss with Sophia Booth (Marion Bailey), a kindhearted widow, he sheds his identity altogether, adopting his lady friend’s last name. The tenderness he shows her is missing from most of his relations with women, with the exception of Mary Somerville (Leslie Manville), a Scottish scientist who shares his interest in the properties of light. Ruskin, the critic who championed Turner is portrayed in a derogatory mocking way as a self-righteous cockscomb and Turner's fellow artists range from supportive to completely dismissive.