Director: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman
Cast: Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Saoirse Ronan
Watch Loving Vincent online in the UK: iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / TalkTalk TV / Virgin Movies / eir Vision Movies / Google Play
How do you pay tribute to Vincent van Gogh in film form? Grab a paintbrush. Loving Vincent does just that, daubing oil on canvas to bring to life the story of the artist’s infamous death. It gorgeously captures the small French town of Auvers, from glowing stars to rolling wheat fields. Then it scrapes off the paint and does it again – 65,000 times. The result is something stunningly unique: the world’s first painted film.
The voice cast, including Douglas Booth, Saoirse Ronan and Jerome Flynn, give the floating, impressionistic pictures a tangible weight, while the script portrays the mystery behind van Gogh’s demise as a lightweight true crime investigation, complete with eyewitness interviews and red herrings. It hinges on a letter Vincent wrote to Theo van Gogh, a man whom our protagonist – Armand (Booth), the son of a postman – is dispatched to track down.
And so he traverses France to encounter all manner of locals, from Jerome Flynn’s Dr. Gachet to Eleanor Tomlinson’s muse, Adeline, the kind of figures brought to life by the artist’s provincial portraits. What happened to lead to Vincent’s death? And was he as troubled as we so widely assume? The cast do their best with the low-key, melancholic material, but the plot never feels as substantial as it could be. If the pacing is often a tad too sedate, though, that ultimately just means more time to marvel at the fact that this movie even exists. A spectacle of swirling and smudging frames, breathtakingly shifting into clearer view for monochrome flashbacks, directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman turn every single frame into a mini-masterpiece.