Review: Hand-painted film Loving Vincent a mixed picture

Loving Vincent, about the final days of painter Vincent van Gogh, is the world's first fully hand-pa

Loving Vincent, about the final days of painter Vincent van Gogh, is the world's first fully hand-painted feature film. Photo: Breakthru Films/Trademark Films - Credit: Breakthru Films/Trademark Films

Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman co-direct a groundbreaking animated drama about the final days of painter Vincent van Gogh is unique but the effect is often distracting and distancing.

Loving Vincent, about the final days of painter Vincent van Gogh, is the world's first fully hand-pa

Loving Vincent, about the final days of painter Vincent van Gogh, is the world's first fully hand-painted feature film. Photo: Breakthru Films/Trademark Films - Credit: Breakthru Films/Trademark Films

Loving Vincent (PG)

***

The first watercolour animation motion picture is a tale told under starry, starry skies of an errand boy, sent by a postman, to solve the mystery of Van Gogh's last few weeks.

Loving Vincent is the world's first fully hand-painted feature film. Over 100 artists have applied oil paints to each frame to mimic the distinct style of the subject.

Loving Vincent, about the final days of painter Vincent van Gogh, is the world's first fully hand-pa

Loving Vincent, about the final days of painter Vincent van Gogh, is the world's first fully hand-painted feature film. Photo: Breakthru Films/Trademark Films - Credit: Breakthru Films/Trademark Films


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Postman Joseph Roulin (Chris O'Dowd) is deeply disturbed by news that his friend, painter Vincent van Gogh (Robert Gulaczyk), has died in the small French country town of Auvers, supposedly from a self-inflicted gun wound.

Roulin has an undelivered letter from Vincent to his younger brother Theo. The postman entreats his wastrel son Armand (Douglas Booth) to travel to Auvers and deliver the missive.

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Armand reluctantly agrees and he becomes embroiled in a detective story to unravel what really happened to Vincent on July 27 1890. A visit to paint seller Pere Tanguy (John Sessions) reveals some information but this pales next to the gossip and speculation shared by innkeeper's daughter Adeline Ravoux (Eleanor Tomlinson) and the boatman (Aidan Turner) in Auvers.

Eventually, Armands meets doctor Paul Gachet (Jerome Flynn), who tended to Vincent in his final hours. His version of events doesn't quite match with the testimony of his daughter Marguerite (Saoirse Ronan) or haughty housekeeper Louise Chevalier (Helen McCrory).

Its Van-Go-as-Walt-Disney look makes this Polish/American production unique but the effect is often distracting and distancing; the black and white flashback sequences are more effective.

Though the film suggests he didn't kill himself, it still portrays Van Goff as the great artistic martyr, too good, too pure for this world.

Which renders the film's narrative pointless: it makes no difference if he killed himself or not.

You'll probably be quite liking Vincent, but it is a tame, safe effort.

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