A Review of Loving Vincent

My experience with Loving Vincent was a bit like having a conversation with a really attractive person with no personality. Within the first few minutes, it becomes apparent that a wall might be a better conversationalist. Eventually, you resign yourself to the dopamine rush that comes from looking at such a beautiful person. Not ideal, but all in all, not a bad interaction.


Arjun Deepak, Bear Hub Staff

Loving Vincent is an animated biographical drama of Vincent van Gogh’s life, focusing specifically on its end as it takes place one year following his apparent suicide. Joseph Roulin, van Gogh’s postmaster, entrusts his son, Armand, to deliver van Gogh’s last letter. Joseph also voices his suspicion around van Gogh’s suicide. Armand quickly realizes that the recipient of the letter, van Gogh’s brother Theo, is also dead. This sets Armand off to Auvers-Sur-Oise, the town van Gogh lived in shortly before his death, to find the next best recipient. Joseph’s suspicions are confirmed by the townspeople, setting Armand off on his journey to find out why van Gogh committed suicide.

Stripped down, the plot is a dramatic investigation into the cause of van Gogh’s suicide. In order to have a good detective story, two things must be present: a mystery that captivates the audience and a protagonist who is motivated to solve it. Loving Vincent fails in both.

I cannot, in good conscience, even call this film a “true” detective story when the mystery is so completely outclassed by even the most mediocre Scooby-Doo episodes. The main problem is – it just not interesting. The writers attempt to pull the viewer in by having Joseph ask the audience, “how does a man go from calm to suicidal in six weeks?” This moment of drama couldn’t have fallen harder on its face unless it had slipped on a comically large banana peel.

As the movie approaches the second act, these issues become less significant as more clues are introduced. While this is a welcome improvement, it is only the answer you care about not the journey.

A subpar mystery alone is not enough to make a movie uninteresting. This issue is when it is easier to believe that babies are delivered by storks than it is to believe the protagonist’s character motivations. Armand’s main motivation in delivering the letter is “daddy told me so.” His indignant attitude towards delivering a so-called “dead man’s letter” takes a complete 180 when his father gives him a stern look and literally reminds him to treat others the way that he wants to be treated. If that is enough to convince you Armand cares, I have a bridge to sell you.

At some level, even the writers realized the motivation behind Armand’s quest is weaker than a house of cards on a windy day. By the second act, the letter has been completely relegated to the role of an unapologetic McGuffin, while the mystery becomes the focus. Unfortunately, this solves nothing.

The story holds Armand’s hand through most of the investigation. There is never a eureka moment where Armand puts together clues to find new information. He is only able to progress through the mystery because every person he talks to tells him who to talk to next and what questions to ask them. The result is that the audience is just waiting for the movie to give up the answer. The drama is lost.

The film is saved by its unquestionably stunning visuals. It is the world’s first fully painted feature film. Each of the 65,000 frames of the story is an oil painting faithfully recreated using the same techniques Vincent van Gogh used. Not all of the oil paintings are originals made for the movie. A keen viewer will be able to spot many Vincent van Gogh originals throughout the movie. Many of the scenes, settings, and characters are Vincent van Gogh originals or based on them. This only adds to the air of authenticity the visuals already had.

When I say the movie is drop-dead gorgeous, I do not say that lightly. It is easily the most visually appealing animated film I have ever seen. I audibly said, “wow,” at least four times throughout the movie. The passion the artists had for this project really shows through and you can feel how much they appreciate van Gogh. Not only for his contributions to art but also for their growth as artists.

Loving Vincent is a good movie with a boring plot and a poorly written protagonist. This prevents it from being anywhere in the neighborhood of great but still worth a watch. I recommend everyone give this movie a chance, just to experience the hand-painted animation. But that is where my recommendation stops.