loving_vincentSome movies are so beautifully shot they look like they could be a painting. Well, this little Polish-funded art-house movie about the death of Vincent Van Gogh takes that to a new level.

Literally, every frame is an oil painting. That’s because it was filmed traditionally with actors first and then a team of 125 animators turned each frame into a Van Gogh-esque painting. That’s right. Imagine Starry Night was animated. I know. It’s quite remarkable.

Not only that, if you have any knowledge of Vincent Van Gogh’s work, you’ll recognize the people from his paintings. Who knew that Jerome Flynn is a spitting image of Dr. Gachet from the famous portrait? Or that John Sessions bore more than a passing resemblance to Pere Tanguy? Even Armand and his ever-present yellow jacket feature on a canvas. So what started at remarkable has suddenly gotten itself an upgrade to extraordinary.

Okay, so it looks amazing but what about the story? Well, I’m glad you asked. Directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, it’s an odd kinda mystery-biopic that sees Vincent’s friend, Postmaster Roulin (Chris O’Dowd), ask his son, Armand (Douglas Booth), to do him a favor and deliver a letter he has from the recently deceased Vincent to Vincent’s brother, Theo. Armand wasn’t much of a fan but begrudgingly accepts. After learning that Theo is also dead (oh, spoiler alert, by the way) he decides to deliver the letter to Vincent’s doctor, so off he trots to Auvers-sur-Oise, where no shortage of people unburden themselves to him, with the minimal amount of prompting, all of which plants the seed that maybe it wasn’t suicide after all.

Some of the dialogue is so lumpy and on the nose and exposition-laden that it would make Basil Exposition from Austin Powers wince, and maybe it’s because of the way it was made but some of the vocal performances felt removed from what was on screen. From the perspective of the narrative, it’s a far less satisfying experience, and if it looked like a regular movie, it might even land pretty flatly.

But these are minor complaints. In an age where digital computer animation is so common place, it’s something of a joy to see a movie that not only has taken blood and sweat and tears to make, but to do so in such an original fashion really makes it worthy of all the praise that can be thrown at it.