This one comes to us from the Oscar nomination list of 2018, which included nominations for 'Ferdinand', 'The Boss Baby', 'The Bread Winner' and Pixar's 'Coco' taking the win. I didn't see everything on the list, despite the fact that it would have been my first Annual Oscar Special. However, I do remember saying that by the looks of things, if 'Coco' ever had a real competitor, it had to be the groundbreaking 'Loving Vincent'; a beautifully animated mystery film, hand-painted all the way through by 100+ painters. It was a very big deal as far as the industry goes, but its brilliance has since been swept under the rug.
The film takes place one year after the death of Vincent van Gogh (Robert Gulaczyk), who died two days after attempting suicide by shooting himself in the chest. A postman named Joseph's (Chris O'Dowd) son, Armand (Douglas Booth), is tasked with delivering Van Gogh's last letter to his brother, Theo (Cezary Lukaszewicz). Finding the suicide suspicious, Joseph sends Armand to Paris, and as Armand reluctantly agrees, he ends up interviewing most of the people who knew Van Gogh, each with their own take on the subject to tell. This essentially ends up being 'Citizen Kane' or 'Courage Under Fire' as far as its plot goes - but the artistry of the animation is truly unique and frankly kind of breathtaking.
This is a film that splits itself into two in a certain way. Before actually sitting down to watch it, I only ever saw this as something that was probably good for what it was, but sort of artsy-fartsy all the same. I can like artsy stuff, but I'm also very particular about some. I really don't like movies like 'Tree of Life' because I think they're just too much, but at the same time, somehow I love movies like 'Waking Life', which some might consider more to take than the prior. I suppose one could say my taste lies more in "dream-like" stuff that can really take me away, and this does that in spades. But the other side of the coin tells a really cool story. This could have been done without the overlaying animation and still have been really good; like potentially up for a Best Picture Oscar that year good.
Perhaps what I found most interesting about this movie is how much it made me think about "art" in general. As things unfold, and you see the brush strokes flow, the moods are set in such a way that the realms of canvas paintings and cinematography cross over and you are watching a painting come to life, quite literally. The stylization of the art is, of course, very reminiscent of Van Gogh's work as well, giving a whole new appreciation for the artist - not to sell the story short, of course. As mentioned before, though, this really is a dream-like movie. It's one of those films where when the credits started rolling, it almost felt like waking up - not because I fell asleep during a "boring" movie, but because I was that far sucked into the film's world. Very few movies have accomplished that, but if they ever do, I can't help but praise their accomplishment, even if others don't get the same effect.
Last but not least, this is a film that familiarizes a general audience with the consequences of having certain mental health problems. When you learn more and more about what Van Gogh was going through in his life, you feel more towards his character and see him less as "that crazy painter guy who once gifted his ear". It does get a little intense at times, but it's certainly not a movie that tries too hard to pull on the heartstrings. It's a good, proper dramatic flick with a great cast of performers, and an even better cast of artists. This is altogether one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen, speaking as someone who thrived in art class in school and learned that every painting tells a story. This is one painting that does it in the literal sense, and does it extremely well. Cheers to directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman who's work I am certain to check out further!