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Western Animation / Loving Vincent

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Loving Vincent is a feature-length animated film - the first where every frame is a painting.

One year after Vincent van Gogh's death, his friend Joseph Roulin finds a lost letter addressed to Vincent's younger brother, Theo. Joseph gives his son Armand the task of finding Theo and delivering the letter. While trying to complete this assignment, Armand meets many people who were important to Vincent during the painter's last weeks alive and also starts to question whether the accepted story of Vincent's suicide is true.

A Polish/British/American collaboration, 125 painters helped to create the thousands of oil paintings necessary to animate this film.

This film provides examples of:

  • Accidental Murder: After his investigation, Armand concludes that Rene Secretan accidentally and drunkenly shot Vincent, and Vincent lied about the incident to protect him.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Armand takes on this role: he's not a detective, but he tries to uncover the truth behind Vincent's death.
  • Animal Motif: Crows. Vincent's last painting was Wheatfield with Crows, which Armand scatters when he visits the site. They are also flapping around at various stops on his journey and his investigation, and there is a flashback to Vincent's fascination with a crow that raids his lunch.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: After Armand drunkenly berates the Boatman for standing by silently while Vincent was bullied, the Boatman asks "were you such a great friend to Vincent?" Armand replies that he never claimed to be.
  • Art Shift: During flashback sequences, the art style becomes notably more naturalistic and less styled after Van Gogh.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: When Armand wakes up from his hangover to see the Gendarme with a black eye, he asks if he did that.
    Gendarme: No, I landed the punch myself.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Vincent died too soon, and his death was likely an accident; during his lifetime he received no money or fame for the works that would go on to be priceless and beloved staples of art. However, he nevertheless managed to be an extremely prolific artist and was able to do what he loved and pursue his passion, which is more than most people can say.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: The Young Man with a Cornflower repeatedly teases Armand. Even his uncle concedes he's an annoyance.
  • Can't Refuse the Call Anymore: Armand didn't particularly like Vincent and wasn't interested in delivering the letter, but begrudgingly accepts the task when his father guilts him into it.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Armand is given Vincent's old room and dreams that he is Vincent, dying of his wound, before he awakens and sits up in terror.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander:
    • Doctor Mazery is a little goofy, though he does import some critical information about Vincent's death.
    • Adeline describes Vincent as being somewhat eccentric, insisting on painting while it was raining, but overall a nice man.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Armand is up against three grown men when drunkenly defending the Young Man with a Cornflower, and still wins.
  • Death by Despair: Pere Tanguy says this happened to Theo: after Vincent's death, he lost his will to live, and not even his infant son could rouse him back to life. In real life, one of the causes of his death was listed as sadness. According to Paul Gachet, Theo had tertiary-stage syphilis, which meant that any form of shock - physical, emotional, or financial - could prove too much for him.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Louise Chevalier's disgust for Vincent includes the fact that he killed himself on a Sunday. At that time, suicide was considered a crime against God, and doing on that day would compound the "sin."
  • Driven to Suicide: The general belief is that Vincent killed himself, but Armand picks up various clues that lead him to believe he didn't: Vincent apparently hadn't been planning to end his life due to his ordering more paint, a letter to Armand's father describes Vincent in a calm mood, he would have shot himself in a bizarre place and chose to suffer for hours rather than finish the act, and the angle of the shot was ruled impossible to be a suicide. Dr. Gachet still believes that he committed suicide; however, due to guilt from practically bankrupting his brother and worsening his health. Not that his death made Theo any better...
  • Drowning My Sorrows: After losing his job, and realizing that Van Gogh was much more than the troublesome madman Armand had dismissed him as Armand has a few drinks too many ending in a drunken brawl that lands him in jail for the night.
  • Due to the Dead: Marguerite brings flowers to Vincent's grave on a regular basis.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Armand Roulin is introduced fighting the Zouave for insulting his father - showing his hot temper and sensitivity about his family.
  • Epilogue Letter: There are two: not only do the Roulins get to read the letter that Armand delivered, but Theo's widow also gifts Armand an extra letter from Vincent.
  • Everybody Smokes:
    • In 19th century France, everyone smokes. Armand, the Gachets, and others all smoke cigarettes. Vincent and Theo van Gogh smoke pipes.
    • Also, Everybody Drinks. Nearly every liquid consumed by Armand and whomever he's talking to is alcoholic, though he only gets drunk at the very beginning and after getting a telegrammed pink slip.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The boatman is only ever referred to by his profession.
  • Exact Words: Marguerite declares that she doesn't go in for village gossip. Later, when she asks Armand about his fight, and he reminds her of that statement, she tells him that's one reason people employ servants—to get gossip for them.
  • False Confession: On his deathbed, Vincent says he wanted to kill himself - but Armand comes to believe this confession was part of a cover-up.
  • Flashback: The story of Vincent's life is told through flashbacks.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Vincent, the vagabond painter, is Foolish; Theo, the successful middle-class art dealer, is Responsible.
  • Friend to All Children: Vincent is described as being good with kids, and there's a heartwarming anecdote where he helps a young girl draw a chicken. This may have also contributed to his refusal to name Rene as the shooter, wanting to protect the youth.
  • Gargle Blaster: The boatman offers Armand a drink from his recipe, which is much stronger than what Armand had already imbibed over the course of the day.
  • Holier Than Thou: Louise Chevalier is a churchgoing Christian, and also incredibly judgmental towards Vincent and the unruly youths of Auvers.
  • Homage: Each new character and setting introduced starts with Van Gogh's actual painting of it.
  • Hot-Blooded: Armand is hot-tempered and gets in several fights throughout the film.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: The presumed reason for why Vincent started hanging out with the Secretan boys, despite their bullying, after his falling-out with Paul Gachet.
    Boatman: And, then suddenly it was all silent, and he looked so happy that this dirty crow was coming close. He didn't seem to care that it ran off with his lunch. And, I thought to myself, "How lonely is this guy that even a thieving crow brightens up his day?"
  • I Will Find You: Armand's mission starts like this: he's tasked with finding Vincent van Gogh's brother, Theo, to deliver one of Vincent's letters.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: The characters in the film resemble Van Gogh's portraits (which, of course, portrayed real people), but also strongly resemble their actors. Marguerite Gachet, in particular, more closely resembles Saoirse Ronan than her real-life counterpart.
  • It's All My Fault: The Gachets.
    • Dr. Gachet throws Theo's declining health in Vincent's face during a heated argument, saying that having to support Vincent might be driving him into an early death. Gachet thinks this caused Vincent's suicidal mood due to believing everyone would be better off without him.
    • Marguerite believes this because she withdrew from Vincent on her father's advice to stop "distracting" him from his masterpieces. Even if Rene was the shooter, as Armand tries to assure her, Vincent was still only there because of the consuming loneliness that her coldness made worse.
  • Karma Houdini: Armand rails about Rene Secretan going unpunished for shooting Vincent.
  • Jerkass: Louise has nothing good to say about Van Gogh, who the audience already knows and loves; the boatman doesn't have anything good to say about her, either.
  • Licked by the Dog: The Gachets' housekeeper thinks Vincent is "evil." The citizens of Arles think he's mad. To a young girl at Adeline's inn, however, he's just a nice man who draws her pictures.
  • May–December Romance: Vincent was rumored to have been in a relationship with the much younger Marguerite Gachet, but he later discovers that their relationship was innocent.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Several people comment on Vincent's loneliness and even the few who like him find him eccentric. But - as shown by his tenderness for children and animals, his politeness towards Rene's girlfriends, and his desire not to be a burden on others - he still has a kind heart.
  • Monochrome Past: The present-day is brightly colored, but all flashbacks are in black and white.
  • No Name Given: The boatman, and the Young Man with the Cornflower.
  • Not Proven: At the end, there's not enough proof to know if Vincent's death was a suicide or manslaughter.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Armand gradually realizes the similarities between himself and Vincent, as Vincent, before discovering his love for art, was unable to hold down steady employment even as a missionary, much like Armand's troubles holding down a job.
    Marguerite: You want to know so much about his death - but what do you know of his life?
    Armand: I know that he tried hard. To prove that he was good for something.
  • No Sympathy: The townspeople of Arles circulated a petition to have Van Gogh kicked out. Joseph, Armand's father, refused to sign and angrily decries this lack of feeling towards an ill man.
  • Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: The Boatman believes Vincent and Marguerite were doing this - because why else would a single man and woman go rowing alone? Marguerite refuses to confirm or deny this, however.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: Several scenes are repeated and made more clear from another's perspective. For instance, some in Auvers assume Vincent and Dr. Gachet quarreled over Vincent's friendship with Marguerite - but the doctor later reveals the fight was over his own artistic pretensions.
  • Parting-Words Regret: Though it took place two weeks before his death, Dr. Gachet deeply regrets the argument he had with Vincent.
  • Posthumous Character: Vincent, whose story is told entirely through flashbacks after his death.
  • The Queen's Latin: Though the film is set in France, with almost entirely French characters, the cast is made up of actors from England, Ireland, and Scotland, who mostly use their native accents.note  They also say Vincent’s last name in the British pronunciation “Van Goff” rather than the Dutch pronunciation “Van Hoh”.
  • Quick Nip: The Boy with the Cornflower's uncle keeps a bottle of cider in his tool basket, which he shares with Armand.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: Armand is told different versions of how Vincent died, where he was shot, and the details of his relationships with the people of Auvers that are impossible to reconcile, turning his simple quest to find a recipient for the letter into a mystery he feels compelled to solve.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Starting in the 2000s, some scholars have theorized that Van Gogh was murdered, or at least the victim of an accidental shooting by a young companion that Vincent lied about to spare the culprit the consequences.
  • Red Herring: Armand suspects that Vincent's relationship with Marguerite and his later argument with Dr. Gachet led to his suicide, but Marguerite reveals later that Vincent didn't have serious feelings for her. As for Dr. Gachet, the clues Armand gathers from others initially lead him to suspect Gachet of covering up the truth for some reason of his own. Further conversation reveals, however, that Gachet is convinced it was suicide because of his guilt. Armand delivers the letter into his care.
  • Rotoscoping: The film was made by projecting live-action footage onto canvases, which served as guides for the artists to paint the final frames in Van Gogh's style.
  • Scenery Porn: Oooooooh, yes. An animated film in which every frame is an oil painting done in the style of Van Gogh. It shouldn't be surprising that it is stunning to look at.
  • Shown Their Work: A whole lot of research was put into portraying Vincent's story accurately, while still managing to fit his famous paintings somewhere into the story.
  • Starving Artist: Vincent works hard at his vocation, but is entirely dependent on his brother for support. At one point he's reduced to painting on dish towels because he can't afford canvas.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Vincent's paint dealer informs Armand that since Theo is dead, it's best for him to just give the letter to his father. Armand would do that, except it feels like an incomplete task.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Rene Secretan cruelly mocks Vincent and pulls pranks like putting a snake in with Vincent's art supplies, leading people to wonder why Vincent even spent time with him in the first place.
  • Title Drop: Vincent signs his letters to Theo as your loving Vincent.
  • Vindicated by History: In-universe, the film notes that Van Gogh is now considered the father of modern painting, with his works beloved and considered priceless.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Armand had a lifelong career in the army, Adeline married a local innkeeper, and Marguerite remained unmarried and lived in her father's house for the rest of her life, keeping Vincent's painting of her for decades. Rene, on his deathbed, admitted that he tormented Van Gogh, but claims Vincent stole his gun to kill himself.