Biography Drama

'Loving Vincent' Film Review: Of oil paints, animation cells and a guy named Vincent

October 6, 2017Siobhán Finn

Art and film have truly become one in Loving Vincent, the breathtaking new film from directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman. Posited as a mystery surrounding the death of painter Vincent van Gogh, this film is an art lover’s paradise, using actors as the canvas for recreating van Gogh’s most well-known works.

Douglas Booth plays Armand Roulin, the son of the local Postmaster (Chris O’Dowd), who has been sent on a mission to posthumously deliver a letter written by Vincent (Robert Gulaczyk) to his brother, Theo. Reluctant to complete the task, Armand finds himself talking to numerous people who knew Vincent prior to his death and — with Rashomon-like retellings — begins to piece together a portrait of the artist’s final days.

Mediocre writing and subpar acting aside, Loving Vincent is extremely watchable, as the true brilliance of this 94-minute movie lies not with the performances, but in the 65,000 frames that were hand-painted by 125 artists. Initially shot as live-action on sets similar to van Gogh’s paintings, each frame of film was then painstakingly repainted in van Gogh’s signature style, creating one of the most unique animated features in recent memory.

Since many of the characters are based on real people, the script by Kobiela, Welchman and Jacek Dehnel doesn't stray too far from the facts of van Gogh’s life, making the mystery merely a vehicle for the way the filmmakers deliver the style of animation. From the requisite starry, starry night skies to a simple rainy day, the movement in the backgrounds is astounding. The animation of people, on the other hand, is somewhat less impressive, but it’s offset by the mastery in the moments of stillness — such as when a simple smile transforms van Gogh’s potential love interest, Marguerite Gachet, from a painting you think you recognize into actress Saoirse Ronan.

Notably, Kobiela and Welchman also use hauntingly lifelike black-and-white oil painting to distinguish flashbacks and memories from the rest of the film. Giving the impression of charcoal sketches, these scenes add a whole other layer of gorgeous texture to the already rich and bountiful tapestry of this movie.

An animated film for art buffs and neophytes alike, Loving Vincent in no way requires viewers to possess an in-depth knowledge of van Gogh’s catalogue beforehand. In fact, not being overly familiar with van Gogh’s work makes watching the movie — especially its end credits — even more delightful. Suffice it to say, there's plenty to love about Loving Vincent, so while you may come for the art, you'll definitely stay for the artistry.

Loving Vincent releases October 6th, 2017 from Mongrel Media. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for mature thematic elements, some violence, sexual material and smoking. Its runtime is 1 hr. 34 min.

You May Also Like