Armand Roulin is the neer-do-well son of the postmaster in 19th century Arles, France. His father tasks him with delivering the final letter of a late friend to surviving relatives, a task Armand resents because he never much cared for that friend, Vincent van Gogh. In Roulin’s eyes, Vincent was little more than a shiftless painter, who caused his father and the town much grief before he committed suicide after moving away.
Even more irritatingly for Armand is that he is having trouble finding anyone to give the letter. Vincent’s beloved brother Theo is nowhere to be found. However, as Armand spends more and more energy trying to track down a surviving relation, he finds himself more and more intrigued by the mysteries surrounding the life and death of Vincent van Gogh.
My friend Craig recommended this film to me, and I’m so glad he did! It was a lovely, visually-stunning movie. (Thanks for the great recommendation, Craig!)
Loving Vincent has an interesting plot on its own, but what really sets it apart is its unique style. It is the first movie that has been entirely hand painted. The film was Oscar-nominated as an animated movie, but that description really does not do it justice. Over 100 painters were commissioned to use oil paintings to paint each frame, inspired by Van Gogh’s style and many of his actual works. Flashbacks to Van Gogh’s life are a stark black and white while Armand’s present features the bold colors and brush strokes Van Gogh is famous for. The result is mesmerizing.
To tell the story of Armand’s investigation into Van Gogh, various actors were used as models for the real life people they represent (many of whom Van Gogh immortalized in portraits). Armand is played by Douglas Booth (The Riot Club), but I had a lot of fun recognizing the faces (and voices) of the other people he encounters.
Armand’s father is Chris O’Dowd (The IT Crowd), Van Gogh’s doctor Gachet is Jerome Flynn (Game of Thrones), Gachet’s prickly housekeeper is Helen McCrory (Harry Potter), Gachet’s daughter is Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), the daughter of Van Gogh’s final landlord is Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark), and a random boatman Van Gogh frequently encountered while out painting is Aidan Turner (Poldark). All these characters have their own take on Van Gogh — some flattering and others not — and Armand quickly finds himself the recipient of a barrage of conflicting gossip on Van Gogh’s final weeks and the day of his death.
Not only did the painters who created Loving Vincent masterfully recreate Van Gogh’s style, but they also did a great job of depicting the actors. In fact, the credits are a lot of fun as they show a cross-section of the paintings that inspired the movie, as well as Van Gogh’s paintings of actual historical figures alongside photos of the actors cast to depict them.
If you like history, biographies, art, or innovative filmmaking, you should check out Loving Vincent. This week marks the 165th anniversary of Van Gogh’s birth, and Loving Vincent is the perfect way to celebrate his life and work. It’s a surprisingly sweet movie and is definitely one of the most unique movies that I have seen recently. Please follow this link to our online library catalog for more information on it and to place holds.
Are you a Van Gogh fan? What’s your favorite biographical film? What other painter would you like to see a biographical movie about in the style of their work? Tell us in the comments!