Review: Loving Vincent

One of 2017’s Oscar-nominated animated features, losing out on the big award to Pixar’s Coco, written and directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, co-written with Jaceck Dehnel. A year after Vincent Van Gogh’s death, a postman’s son is tasked with delivering the artist’s final letter, but finds himself instead investigating his troubled final days in Auvers-sur-Oise. Voiced by: Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Robert Gulaczyk, Helen McCrory, Chris O’Dowd, John Sessions, Eleanor Tomlinson, Aidan Turner and Saoirse Ronan.

What better way to pay tribute to the iconic, legendary artist, whose story you’re telling, than to create a film made entirely with animated oil paintings? It’s beyond fitting and is one in a refreshing line of animated films trying new styles to give their stories an extra edge. It’s a risk that was well worth taking, the resulting visual is fascinating to watch, how it individually captures each scene in different yet complimentary styles. The way that it captures each actor almost identically is extremely impressive, it would be impossible to not know who they were without needing to be told. It further helps that for the most part, they chose a very strong cast, particularly Tomlinson, McCrory, Ronan and Gulaczyk. However, Douglas Booth as the lead was a strange choice and one risk that didn’t pay off. He lacks a more charming voice or enchanting cadence to lead an animated film, even one that so perfectly captures his physicality. He’s yet to prove that he’s strong enough in a lead role, he’s had a couple of opportunities but never one that worked particularly well, and this just proves he’s more suited to a supporting role, lacking the sympathy or presence to carry a story.

Using the character of Armand as a conduit for telling the story of Van Gogh’s last days certainly makes sense on paper, to experience his discoveries along with him but the end result is a story that’s unsatisfyingly told in increments. The story is constantly stopping and starting, which doesn’t allow for smooth story telling and given that his only purpose is to be the device through which the story is told, the time that’s spent on him is uninteresting and again, interrupts the pace of the film. Overall, choosing to tell the story in this way just doesn’t work as well as it should, there’s a very interesting tale of the mysterious and fascinating man that Van Gogh was underneath but it’s told in an inconsistent way that takes too much focus from it.

There’s also a slight conspiracy theory theme to the way it’s told, we may never know for certain the exact events of Van Gogh’s last days but the film provides an interesting take with the information that’s available. When all the pieces are put together, it’s compelling but that constant back and forth hinders it from coming through strongly. It’s clear that there was a real, deep and sincere effort to tell his story and it’s a shame that the format of the script lets that down.

The style of Loving Vincent is a perfect homage to Vincent Van Gogh, it’s a fascinating, fresh perspective on the possibilities that animation holds. There are some strong actors at play and a very interesting story, but one that’s hindered by a lead that lacks charisma or a resounding voice and a slow format. The idea and visual execution are brilliant but Booth was not an ideal choice to anchor the story around and focus should have been left to the man they were actually making the film in reverence of. It’s wonderful to behold the countless hours that went into creating each painting to make the final film but sadly the other elements just don’t come together.

Verdict: ✯✯✯

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