REVIEW: Willem Dafoe paints a beautiful, if difficult, picture as Van Gogh

Oscar season is upon us, which means sporadically brilliant films with standout  performances are here to test viewers.

At Eternity’s Gate, the ambitious, sometimes-engaging latest from auteur Julian Schnabel is far from perfect, but Willem Dafoe is arresting as tortured artist Vincent Van Gogh.

The film follows the now-famous painter as he works in a time where he’s misunderstood and overwhelmed with loneliness.

There are sequences of epic wonderment, but Schnabel’s film is also a dreary, difficult affair, with Dafoe’s performance sometimes offering the only true joy.

He is a tour-de-force as a revered man who couldn’t overcome his own mental health issues. As we watch Van Gogh descend into madness, we forget we’re watching Dafoe at all.

He lives and breathes this character, and with help from a supporting turn from the ever-elegant Oscar Isaac, he leads the film to new heights.

Make no mistake, it’s a gorgeous piece of art, but you’ll come for Dafoe’s weirdly ambitious turn. His strange intricacies will keep you captivated, even if the film around him is a bit too wearisome.

3/5 Stars

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