Before we go any further, it's important to know one thing about Loving Vincent: it is gorgeous—like, GORGEOUS. But it's just not quite where you'd want it to be in terms of narrative content, and it becomes increasingly difficult to stay engaged.
See, Loving Vincent is touted as "the world's first fully painted feature film" by its filmmakers, and this is true; famous Van Gogh subjects (such as the postman Joseph Roulin and his son Armand, or Dr. Paul Gachet) become characters who inhabit a world that is brought to life by over 60,000 actual oil paintings from 125 artists done in Van Gogh's post-impressionist style. It's all at once jaw-dropping from both aesthetic and technical standpoints, and it seems like another iconic piece finds its way into the film every few seconds. Outside of this feat, however, lies a fairly middling story about the famed painter's pros and cons as told through those who met or knew him in the small village of Auvers. Did you already know Van Gogh was tortured? Of course you did.
Quite well-known was brothers Vincent and Theo Van Goghs' affinity for correspondence, so when the postman Roulin discovers a final undelivered letter written by Vincent, with whom he shared a friendly relationship, he sends his son to Auvers to deliver it. The son, unhappy with the assessment that his father's friend committed suicide, becomes fixated on getting to the bottom of his untimely death.
This is all well and good, and again—gorgeous. But it's really just that the son presses the villagers in a completely unnatural manner, and the way everyone he meets has numerous in-depth memories of Van Gogh's time in their town feels like a stretch. The story begins to unravel and stall, and the main performance from Douglas Booth (Noah) falls flat under a run-of-the-mill screenplay that could have really stretched out and done something wonderful, but didn't appear to have been given enough time. The most exciting actor to appear is Chris O'Dowd, who plays the postman himself, but even he disappears almost immediately. Bummer.
Still, it's fun to wonder which paintings are which and, if nothing else, it truly is an astounding creation. It's worth seeing for the visuals alone, just don't expect it to grab you beyond its reminder that Van Gogh was a genius unappreciated in his own time.
+So beautiful, so impressive
-Does not command attention
Directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman
With Booth and O'Dowd
Center for Contemporary Arts, Violet Crown, PG-13, 94 min.