Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. Poland/United Kingdom/USA, 2017. BreakThru Productions, Trademark Films, Silver Reel, Odra Film, Centrum Technologii Audiowizualnych, Polski Instytut Sztuki Filmowej, RBF Productions, Sevenex Capital Partners. Screenplay by Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Jacek Dehnel. Cinematography by Tristan Oliver, Lukasz Zal. Produced by Sean M. Bobbitt, Ivan Mactaggart, Hugh Welchman. Music by Clint Mansell. Production Design by Matthew Button, Maria Duffek, Andrzej Rafal Waltenberg. Costume Design by Dorota Roqueplo. Film Editing by Dorota Kobiela, Justyna Wierszynska. Academy Awards 2017. Golden Globe Awards 2017. Washington Film Critics Awards 2017.
A remarkable achievement, the first fully painted feature film using around 65,000 oil paintings done in the style of Vincent Van Gogh to tell a story through his mind’s eye, which alone would be quite the feat but for outstanding direction and writing as well. Douglas Booth plays the son of a local postman (Chris O’Dowd) who is in possession of Van Gogh’s last letter, one which he wrote to his brother Theo but, as Theo has also passed away, cannot be delivered. The father instructs the son to go to Auvers-sur-Oise where Vincent lived his last days, and look up the doctor with whom he was good friends, and find out more information about where to forward the great artist’s final correspondence. Upon arrival, the young man is beset on all sides by characters with information about Vincent and his death, inspiring him to look into a possible mystery: did he kill himself as has been easily believed, or was something more sinister afoot? The doctor’s housekeeper (Helen McCrory) has a harsh take on the situation, while his daughter (Saoirse Ronan), who was possibly the painter’s lover, won’t divulge any information, insisting that everything that Booth is learning from the gossipy barmaid (Eleanor Tomlinson) at the hotel where he is staying is nonsense. Art is, of course, a matter of interpretation, as is talent and, as this rapidly maturing protagonist comes to realize, so is any human being’s life; what Booth learns is something far more emotional and substantial than simply clues to solve an easy to understand truth. Combining such mystical investigation with the beauty of the impressively achieved images (which includes the actors appearing as themselves) makes for one of the most unforgettable movie experiences you will ever have.