Plot: In the wake of the death of Vincent van Gogh, an undelivered letter looms large on the mind of his postman, Joseph Roulin (Chris O’Dowd). Roulin had a special bond with the artist and was even the subject of some of his paintings, so it is important to him that the letter be delivered. The letter is from Vincent to his brother Theo, but he has been unable to track down the proper destination for the post, so Roulin tasks his son Armand (Douglas Booth). Armand is to travel to find Theo, but soon discovers that Vincent’s brother is also dead and unable to find a location on his widow, he continues on to find someone who can point him in the right direction. This leads him on a journey similar to one taken by Vincent himself, meeting those who interacted with the artist as he created and lived, much as Armand had. As he listens to the various stories, he begins to suspect that Vincent didn’t attempt to take his own life as reported, but was shot by someone else instead. As he delves into the final days of Vincent, will Armand find the truth he seeks, even if it comes in unexpected ways?
Entertainment Value: This is one of the most unique, creative visions you’ll see in the world of animation or film, with over sixty thousand frames hand painted to create a one of a kind experience. In other words, this is like a painting that lives and breathes, telling the story of van Gogh’s final days in a way that no other medium could achieve, with over 100 artists involved. The visuals are beyond beautiful, it is the kind of movie you can’t wait to share with others, as it is such a special, unique experience that has to be seen to be believed. The texture of the paints, the brushstrokes, even a fly in the paint at one point create this world that reels you in and never lets go. I am sure the visuals will earn the lion’s share of the acclaim for Loving Vincent, but the story here is also quite good. The narrative centers on various subjects of van Gogh’s work, some direct and others inspired by the visuals. This allows it to have a deeper connection, as these are the people he painted, that he made immortal and in Loving Vincent, they come alive to share their part in his life. The pace is a little slow at times and the story takes a bit to build steam, but it is never dull and finds a good cadence in time. In truth, the story can get a bit lost the first time around, as the visuals are so powerful, so it is worth a revisit to focus in on those elements.
The cast here is solid as well, though again likely to be overshadowed by the visuals, at least the first time around. Douglas Booth has the lead and performs well, as a man who is entranced by the experiences van Gogh left behind, as well as the colorful characters he encountered. He seems to forget at times that he has his own life back home, he is so in the moment. Booth carries the film well and plays off the various costars to great ends, so his work here is rock solid. Chris O’Dowd is a little broad in his turn, but fine, while Saoirse Ronan, Holly Earl, John Sessions, and others provide good supporting roles to flesh out the cast. Jerome Flynn has a great turn in this one as well, as a doctor who is both jealous of and enraptured by Vincent. Even if it was just about the visuals, this would be a remarkable and worthwhile cinematic experience, as it shines and offers such a rich visual feast. But it bolsters those visuals with a capable narrative and some terrific performances, giving us a well rounded movie. I recommend Loving Vincent to anyone who appreciates animation, art, or unique cinema.