ReelBob: ‘Loving Vincent’ ★★★

By Bob Bloom

It’s not always story or character that make viewing a movie a positive or enjoyable experience.

Sometimes it can be a technical aspect, such as the musical score or the cinematography.

The latter is the case with “Loving Vincent,” the first feature-length oil-painted animation movie.

This 94-minute film explores the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of famed artist Vincent Van Gogh — considered a suicide — through depictions of his artwork.

The story is rather pedestrian and repetitive, but it’s the manner in which it is told that makes the film exemplary.

The presentation may appear gimmicky and act as a distraction, but it serves a purpose: forging the artist to his art.

Directors and writers Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman are making us see the world — and Van Gogh’s life — through his eyes.

No surprise revelations are offered; no suspect is apprehended. Van Gogh’s death remains classified as a suicide, despite some doubt clouding that verdict.

Van Gogh’s death is the springboard for an examination of how the world viewed him.

Our guide through this maze is Armand Roulin, the son Joseph Roulin, the postman who befriended Van Gogh. A year after Van Gogh’s death, the elder Roulin dispatches his son to deliver a letter — found by the painter’s landlord — written by Van Gogh to this brother, Theo.

Armand is resentful about undertaking the quest because, like many others, he had a low opinion of Van Gogh and sees no reason to become involved in his life — even after his death.

His insistent father, not breaching any reluctance, sends Armand on his way. The young man’s travels bring him in contact with several people who knew or were touched by the painter.

Through these experiences, Armand begins to appreciate Van Gogh as an artist and a man — and also begins delving into the reasons why Van Gogh committed suicide — if he, indeed, did kill himself.

“Loving Vincent” is a movie in which style trumps substance. It is beautiful to look at, comprised as it is of Van Gogh’s works.

The film is a labor of love for its creators, a tribute to an artist who was neither appreciated nor understood until after he was gone.

The voice talents of the many actors involved — including Douglas Booth, Saorise Ronan, Chris O’Dowd, Helen McCrory and Jerome Flynn — help bring Van Gogh’s paintings to life — at times, giving them depth and understanding.

“Loving Vincent” is a visual treat of breathtaking originality. The story may be ordinary — even formulaic — but the care and dedication of the artists who give it life make it an almost spiritual experience.

I am a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. My reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). I also review Blu-rays and DVDs. I can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Links to my reviews can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

LOVING VINCENT
3 stars out of 4
(PG-13), mature themes, violence, sexual material, smoking

  • ReelBob

    Share your views of the movie and how it was presented. Do you think the way animation was used was a gimmick or did it enhance the film? Let’s talk about it here at ReelBob.