Loving Vincent


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Loving Vincent
"The splendour of the artwork is not matched by the tale being told, which is of the paint-by-numbers variety."

Rotoscoping has never quite looked the way it does in this animation by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman - and the end product demonstrates how much they love him, even though lacks beef in narrative terms. Their live action film has been meticulously oil painted on canvas by 125 artists, drawing on Van Gogh's visible brushtroke impasto style, and the results are visually immersive, every corner of every frame holding something to look at, particularly in relation to light sources.

The splendour of the artwork is not matched by the tale being told, which is of the paint-by-numbers variety. The young and decidedly spiv-like Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) is tasked by his postman father (Chris O'Dowd) with delivering the last letter written by Van Gogh to his brother Theo. His journey to the provincial town of Auvers-sur-Oise, leads to him being caught up in attempting to 'solve' what he views as the mystery surrounding the painter's death.

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It is here that the cracks begin to show in the narrative, which plays out like a tea-time sub-Agatha Christie television mystery. Instead of considering deeper themes, such as Van Gogh's mental fragility and what might have led him to take his own life, the filmmakers favour of a procession of opinions on the painter - from his doctor (Jerome Flynn), the doctor's daughter (Saoirse Ronan), the local barmaid (Helen McCrory) and boatman (Aidan Turner), among others.

Each person's story - revealed in an odd hodge-podge of distracting accents - forms an orderly queue to be told and features flashbacks, which are rendered in black and white. It's true that Van Gogh did start out drawing in monochrome, although nothing as luxurious as that shown here. In fact, the painting in general might be considered on the 'neat' side for Van Gogh, with all those slightly melancholic, lop-sized portraits given a smooth Hollywood makeover - underlined by end credits which show the paintings that were drawn upon as inspiration. One positive achieved by the use of black and white, however, is to show just how radical his employment of colour was compared to what might be considered the more 'traditional' painting of his predecessors.

If the painting brushstrokes are deliberate, the trowelled-on approach to the story is less so, although its predictability means you can happily zone out from it for minutes at a time and simply enjoy the exquisite craft of the animation, gently supported by Clint Mansell's flowing score. You're left wishing that the same attention to detail that has gone into the look of the film had been paid to its content.

Reviewed on: 18 Sep 2017
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The life and mysterious death of Vincent Van Gogh.
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Director: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman

Writer: Jacek Dehnel, Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman

Starring: Helen McCrory, Jerome Flynn, Saoirse Ronan, Aidan Turner, Chris O'Dowd, Eleanor Tomlinson, Douglas Booth, Holly Earl, Robert Gulaczyk, John Sessions, James Greene, Richard Banks, Bill Thomas, Josh Burdett, Martin Herdman

Year: 2017

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: UK, Poland

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