Loving Vincent  attempts to unravel the mystery of famous artist, Vincent Van Gogh's suicide. Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth), a small-town drunkard and scoundrel, journeys across the land to return a letter from Vincent and meets with a series of witnesses to Vincent's last days along the way.
Witness Statements: The Loving Vincent story is one told largely through character dialogue and flashbacks. Armand journeys through France to Auvers-sur-Oise, where Vincent committed suicide, hoping to give a letter from Vincent to his brother, and then to his doctor. What starts as a simple mission becomes more and more complicated as Armand's curiosity about Vincent's death is aroused, and he attempts to find closure. The story is by no means a plot-driven, action-packed whirlwind; it unfolds more like a series of meetings and interviews, as Armand slowly uncovers more about Vincent's death through the tales of the other characters he meets. From the paint supplier to the inn keeper's daughter, the boatman to the doctor's housekeeper, each character Armand meets tells a slice of Vincent's story, painting his last days, but leaving just enough to the imagination to give Vincent's death an air of mystery. This works really well to build suspense and keep the audience interested, and I was surprised it was pulled off so well given that Vincent Van Gogh, and his death, have been famous for so long. Somehow, the film is able to make us question the nature of Van Gogh's death, if only for an hour or so. However, there are elements of this story-telling style that don't always work as well. Despite the brilliance of the cast, the dialogue often feels stilted and unnatural, because it is so expositional. There's no subtlety in it, we are told exactly what we need to be told, exactly when we need to know it. There's no putting two and two together for ourselves. The occasionally stilted nature of this film is counteracted slightly by the emotionally-driven black and white flashbacks of Vincent himself (Robert Gulaczyk), and his experiences of his final days. Armand Roulin is also a very interesting character and it's wonderful to watch his character growth, which parallels seamlessly with Vincent's downfall.
Starry, Starry Night: What is most exciting about this film, of course, is that it's the world's first fully painted feature film. The entire movie is an oil painting. A painting design team spent a year re-imagining Vincent's paintings into the film medium. There are 65 000 frames in the film and 898 shots, filmed first in live action and then painted by hand and animated. This extremely time-consuming and finely-detailed process was well worth the incredible result. The look of this film is magical; it is completely different to any animation currently on cinema screens around the world. The joy of it, for fans of art and for fans of Van Gogh in particular, is spotting Van Gogh's famous paintings within the film. An establishing shot of the café where we find Armand Roulin is Van Gogh's Cafe Terrace at Night painting, the church is Church at Auvers. Each character is inspired by real people in Vincent's life and are recognizable in Vincent's paintings, Marguerite Gachet (Saoirse Ronan) at the Piano, the Boat Man by the Auvers river (Aiden Turner), Armand Roulin in his bright yellow coat. These characters stand up from their still portraits and move within Van Gogh's famous landscapes. The film ends of course with a glorious starry night. It is quite something to see Van Gogh's famous images rendered into life so beautifully, and the film is well worth seeing purely for the incredible animation.
Loving Vincent is a masterful work of art.
Loving Vincent is featured on Borrowing Tape's Best Films of 2017 list.
Watch Loving Vincent on iTunes