Simon Dillon reviews the visually mesmerising but dramatically tepid animated film.

Loving Vincent

Giving new meaning to the term labour of love, Loving Vincent is a visually mesmerising but dramatically tepid animated film, examining the events surrounding the death of celebrated painter Vincent Van Gogh.

Starting with the positives, the film is an astonishing technical achievement. Directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman shot live action performances, then had each frame painstakingly and lovingly oil painted in Van Gogh's style, frequently segueing into famous images from his artwork (such as the crows over the cornfield). One is reminded of films like Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly (which did a similar thing with live action tracings), but this still feels like a singular piece of work. Incidentally, the Academy aspect ratio used here cleverly matches that of Van Gogh's paintings.

Taking it's structural cue from Citizen Kane, the film is set a year after Vincent's supposed suicide, as a young man Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) tries to deliver a letter written by Vincent to his brother Theo. Upon discovering that Theo is also dead, Armand begins to ask questions about the circumstances around Vincent's death, leading to monochrome flashbacks and raising the possibility of murder.

Such Amadeus style speculation cannot be definitively answered, but it is a shame the film lacks the narrative drive to match the passion that has clearly driven the animation. Booth is good in the lead, and there is decent support from the likes of Robert Glyaczk, Saoirse Ronan, John Sessions, Helen McCrory, Eleanor Tomlinson, Aidan Turner, Jerome Flynn and Chris O'Dowd. Yet I can't help but wonder what might have been with a less dramatically inert screenplay.

In short, Loving Vincent is a worthwhile film for the curious, but not the masterpiece that might have been. That said it is a visually beautiful tribute to one of the greatest artists of all time. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.