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Movie Review: ‘Loving Vincent’ Tells the Story of van Gogh’s Death in a Style All His Own

CREDIT: Good Deed Entertainment

Starring: Robert Gulaczyk, Douglas Booth, Chris O’Dowd, Saoirse Ronan

Directors: Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman

Running Time: 94 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 Because Everyone Has a Drinking Problem

Release Date: September 22, 2017 (Limited)

Prepare yourself for a lesson in art history.

Loving Vincent tells the story of the few years immediately following Vincent van Gogh’s apparent suicide. The film begins as Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth), a scrappy drunk and son of a spectacularly-bearded postmaster (played by Chris O’Dowd), is tasked by his father to deliver Vincent’s final letter to his brother, Theo. He arrives in Paris to find out that shortly after Vincent’s passing, Theo succumbed to syphilis. But he doesn’t stop there. After hearing from various characters around Vincent and his own father, he questions the story surrounding his death, and takes it upon himself to find the truth. In his search, he runs into all the subjects van Gogh painted in his final years, each brought to life as animated characters in the artist’s own style.

That’s the most incredible part of this film: it was painstakingly created by hundreds of artists over 7 years and is the product of over 64,000 paintings. The characters, themselves subjects of his paintings, swirl and move in the colorful, crude brushstrokes he is known for, and through the settings painted by van Gogh.

The story itself is not a particularly thrilling ride. Armand accepts his father’s request begrudgingly and then becomes intrigued by the different ways van Gogh is described by the people that filled his life. For the most part, van Gogh remains a specter throughout, speaking few words in flashbacks, and hinges on the stories told by those around him. Told largely in flashback, Armand finds that Vincent was much more complicated than he originally thought, and that, just maybe, he didn’t kill himself. There’s not much drama and the murder theory is not that interesting.

The film stays true to its vision (even though the animation can be somewhat disorienting at times), but when the novelty wears off, there isn’t much story to pick up the slack. Anyone not well-versed in early modernist history will enjoy Loving Vincent and learn a lot (I did), and van Gogh fans will love it. 

Loving Vincent is Recommended If You Like: A Scanner Darkly but less drugs and more depression, van Gogh paintings?

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Village Dunces

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