A year has passed since the death of Vincent Van Gogh (Robert Gulacyk). His friend Postman Roulin (Chris O’Dowd) tasks his son Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) to return the final letter the late artist wrote to his brother. Upon arriving in Paris to find out that Theo, Vincent’s brother, had passed on. He learns of Van Gogh’s friendship with Dr. Gachet (Jerome Flynn), who he was seeing before his death. Deciding to visit the good doctor to find an address for Theo’s widow, he begins to ponder exactly why a man who appeared to be in good mental health would attempt to kill himself shortly after.
What will attract nearly everyone to go see Loving Vincent is not its story, but it’s art style. In an unprecedented move, this movie was animated over the course of five years by hundreds of painters via oil paintings. Outside of it being a magnificent selling point, the uniqueness of the project is directly inspired by Van Gogh’s uniqueness as a painter. His memory is all around this work, from the story directly being about him to a lot of his famous portraits being lovingly recreated with the help of over 65,000 paintings brought into the film via stop-motion. The result is breath-taking.
Comprising of a strong cast of not only the actors listed above, but also Saoirse Ronan, Aidan Turner, Helen McCrory, John Sessions and Eleanor Tomlinson, the actors actually had to act out the scenes as a point of reference for the painters. So you’re getting legitimate performances being animated, which helps sell the authenticity. It’s incredible how accurate they get the movements down.
The high colour saturation that helps add dimension to the craft and is reminiscent of very man who inspired all this. There are blemishes and odd colour styles brought together, but they only help shape the world and keep it within its sphere of influence. I also love the use of black-and-white muted colours for the flashbacks, which contains an amazing sequence where Van Gogh looks into a bowl of water.
Unfortunately, a lot of the structure being focused around laying tribute to Van Gogh causes the story itself to be a little repetitive at parts. Because of them wanting to recreate Van Gogh’s portraits into the shot, characters tend to be introduced a lot and provide similar information to Roulin’s questioning, which tend to be repetitive and the first half is really slow to start off because of this. It’s a minor issue for me, however, as I do think the story goes into a very interesting direction, mostly set up by the nature of Van Gogh’s death which was brought into question shortly after production of this movie started. It’s a clever way of using Van Gogh’s death to celebrate his life, and has a really potent message to cap off. As another minor gripe, while Clint Mansel’s score is rather well composed and appropriately used, it doesn’t stand out as well as his other work.
Loving Vincent is a loving tribute and something everyone should see if you have an interest in animation. The art work is not just use to make this film stand out, it puts you into the world and mindset of Vincent Van Gogh and everybody whose lives were affected by him. While the story can be slow in a lot of places, it’s elevated by an interesting concept executed wonderfully with a solid cast and incredibly done scenes that only a remarkable painter can inspire. This world really was never meant for one as beautiful as him.