Eye of the Storm (2021) – Movie Review

 

A Beautiful & Moving Documentary

We live on a beautiful planet. From the awe-inspiring Angel Falls through to the breathtaking majesty of the Arctic circle, sometimes its easy to forget the natural splendor we’ve been graced with. While not a substitute for the real thing of course, paintings – and landscape paintings in particular – can come pretty close to conjuring up those same awe-inspiring feelings.

As an avid lover of the arts, there’s something incredible about seeing a painting up close and personal. Being able to trace all the brushstrokes and intricate little details with the naked eye really gives an appreciation for the love, attention to detail and craftsmanship that goes into producing great works of art.

One of the more inspiring landscape painters in our lifetime is that of Scottish painter James Morrison. Prolific in his country for painting the farmland and surrounding natural beauty in Angus, James’ paintings are beautiful and strikingly serene. Beyond the Scottish landscape however, James also undertook a number of expeditions away from his home, including one notably chilly adventure up to the Arctic Circle.

This 75 minute documentary explores the trials and tribulations of Morrison’s life, with specific emphasis on the final two years of his life. Battling failing eyesight, James sees his career – and his documentary – crescendo into one final pièce de résistance; the last landscape to showcase this struggle.

Seeing James struggling with this condition in the wake of such radiating passion is a real tough pill to swallow. The man literally lives and dies by the paintbrush and seeing this playing out really resonates on a personal level. I won’t go into too much detail here but as someone who easts, sleeps and breathes writing, I can’t imagine the soul-crushing reality of realizing I wouldn’t be able to do that anymore.

There’s a tinge of poignancy hanging over numerous parts of this picture, especially during the emotionally stirring final 15 minutes or so. There’s also some particularly moving scenes with James discussing his wife Dorothy, who died in 2015. The accompanying painting to commemorate her passing, with lots of stormy blues and blacks, really help to highlight this portrait of grief.

Beyond the paintings themselves though, Eye of the Storm documents James’ life as a whole, paying tribute to some of the best pieces of artwork this man produced. Alongside that, the movie allows for some fly on the wall footage of this painter in his art studio, surrounded with paints, paintbrushes and an insatiable appetite to put colour to canvas.

Visually, Eye of the Storm also includes some pretty neat animations around the landscape showcases. Faithfully recreating the style of James’ paintings, these crop up alongside passionately told stories from James himself, adding some welcome visual stimuli.

Speaking of stories, there’s also some educational moments with Christina Jansen too. Serving as the Managing Director for The Scottish Gallery, she explains various different painting techniques and James’ evolving style over the years. This helps to get a sense for how intricate and well-worked these paintings are, with specific emphasis on the tricky (and impressively detailed) painting of snowy backdrops.

James Morrison is undeniably one of Britain’s best painters. His landscapes are absolutely incredible and Eye of the Storm does a great job showcasing his work across a tightly written 75 minute doc. Whether you’re an art lover or not, this is a documentary film well worth checking out.

 

EYE OF THE STORM premieres on BBC2 Easter Sunday 4th April at 9pm and BBC iPlayer thereafter!


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