Movie Review: Loving Vincent (2017)

Loving Vincent

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!




Author: berryvillelibrary

"Our library, our future"

9 thoughts on “Movie Review: Loving Vincent (2017)”

  1. Wonderful review! Thank you. I’d heard of the film, but your description makes me want to see it immediately. I minored in Art History in college and love films and books about painters, particularly if they’re done in a unique style. Did you ever see the film “Frida” with Salma Hayek? I loved how they incorporated her art into what was happening in the film. There was also the amazing – and short lived – TV series called “Da Vinci’s Demons” on Starz, which was gorgeous and so unique in how Da Vinci’s mind and art worked and how they depicted it. This one sounds just as wonderful. I’d love to see a film made about the life and works of John William Waterhouse. His paintings are my absolute favorites, and one of the first prints I ever bought myself and had framed professionally, and still have, is “The Mermaid.” Sorry for the long comment. This really inspired me!


    1. I haven’t watched either one of those, but they both sound interesting! I love Da Vinci’s work!

      I’d never heard of Waterhouse before, but I’m looking at his work right now — it is stunning.

      If I had to pick a painter for a biography that incorporates his/her artistic style into the movie, I would probably pick Caravaggio. His life was insane, and I love his art and the way he worked himself into it. I think it could be interesting, at the very least!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Caravaggio was another amazing painter. I always remember that painting of Judith and Holofernes where his head is supposedly the beheaded head. So amazing and always stood out to me. But I could be mixing it up with another painting so don’t quote me on that.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes that’s him! I’ve always loved that painting! He had a real fixation with decapitations. I wrote a paper on it in college for an Art Appreciation class. LOL He also did several of David with Goliath’s head . . . starring himself as Goliath’s head.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. That movie was boring and visually tiring. When they went to black and white it was a relief. And I couldn’t wait for it to end. Even though I always loved Vincent the movie made me want to never paint like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting, Chris!

      I can understand that — I saw several reviews from people who said the animation style was hard to watch because it hurt their eyes.

      I noticed on your blog that you are an artist. Your work is really lovely, especially the sea scenes. Who are some of your favorite painters?

      Liked by 1 person

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