At Eternity's Gate

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
At Eternity's Gate Movie Poster Image
Fine performance in challenging, arty Van Gogh biopic.
  • PG-13
  • 2018
  • 110 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Not much in the way of clear messages, but there's lots to think about regarding nature of art, what it means to be an artist, and the different ways it's possible to see the world.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Van Gogh may have been one of the world's greatest painters, and he might be an artistic inspiration, but he's undoubtedly flawed and complicated as a character/person. He was terribly troubled, apparently drank heavily, didn't take care of himself, did not relate well to others, acted erratically, and was somewhat tormented.


Two older boys pull a gun and shoot a man. Bloody stomach wound. Main character angrily chases kids away. Kids throw rocks. Van Gogh grabs a kid, fights with adults, briefly grabs a woman roughly; she responds "you're hurting me!" Dead body shown. Description of Van Gogh cutting his ear off. Paper wrapping spotted with dried blood. Descriptions of being "tortured and raped" during war. Character in straightjacket.


Sex-related dialogue.


Uses of "bastard." Discussions of god and Jesus Christ.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Van Gogh is said to be a heavy drinker, often with destructive consequences, but very little of this is actually shown. Social drinking. Pipe-smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that At Eternity's Gate is a biopic about painter Vincent Van Gogh starring Willem Dafoe. There are references to the artist's heavy drinking and destructive actions, but the movie doesn't really show these things. But social drinking is shown, as is pipe smoking. A gun is pulled out and a character is shot; a bloody wound and a dead body are seen. Children throw rocks at an adult, who grabs them and struggles with them before more adults step in and the fighting continues. Van Gogh briefly manhandles a woman, who responds with "you're hurting me!" There's a description of an ear being cut off, and a wrapping paper spotted with dried blood is shown. Dialogue includes violent references, including rape, and there's brief, mild sex-related talk, as well as the word "bastard." This is a very arty, somewhat challenging movie, and though the material is generally appropriate for most teens, it might go over better with older viewers. Also worth noting: Some of the wobbly camerawork could be difficult for those prone to motion sickness.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byjdocomeon March 17, 2020

Inspiring Van Gogh biopic

Incredible story of a man who doesn’t see the world in the same way as everyone else. A film that teaches reverence for art and artists and respect for other pe... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old November 24, 2018

At Eternity's Gate: an art lovers film

At Eternity’s Gate is a biopic about Vincent Van Gogh’s life: his struggles, his friends, his relationships with people, his attitude, and his feelings. It’s no... Continue reading

What's the story?

In AT ETERNITY'S GATE, Vincent Van Gogh (Willem Dafoe) is having little success with his paintings in 1880s Paris. He meets avant-garde painter Paul Gauguin (Oscar Isaac), who encourages Van Gogh to travel south. In Arles, thanks to funding from his loving, supportive brother, Theo (Rupert Friend), Van Gogh rediscovers nature and starts painting his remarkable landscapes and flowers. But his drinking and turbulent behavior frequently get him in trouble. A visit from Gauguin lifts Van Gogh's spirits, but when the time comes for his friend to depart, Van Gogh cuts off his own ear with the intention of sending it to him. He winds up in psychiatric hospitals before being discharged to Auvers-sur-Oise in 1890, where Dr. Paul Gachet (Mathieu Amalric) looks after him. There, Van Gogh paints some of his most important work -- but, alas, his time left on Earth is short.

Is it any good?

Artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel's fragmented, interior look at Vincent Van Gogh's life, captured with roving, POV camerawork and experimental sound, is challenging but sometimes quite powerful. But Dafoe's deeply committed performance unquestionably drives the movie. At Eternity's Gate carefully avoids showing very many of Van Gogh's rages, instead focusing on the aftermath and his feelings and fears around his acts. The result is an appealingly sad, lost character without any of the showiness that might come in a typical biopic.

With its singular focus, however, the movie misses a chance to deepen relationships between Van Gogh and either Theo or Gauguin. But the film's deeply thoughtful dialogue, co-written by the legendary Jean-Claude Carrière, provides plenty of fascinating talk about the nature of art, painting, and existence. Schnabel also offers a meticulous, convincing re-creation of what Van Gogh's style might have been like, with many close-ups of hands applying thick daubs of paint in little spots and dashes. It adds great dimension to the paintings and makes them seem more alive, more vivid. But the often wobbly camerawork could make some viewers seasick. At Eternity's Gate joins a long list of already existing movies about Van Gogh, and it's welcome among them.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how At Eternity's Gate portrays drinking. Van Gogh is hardly shown drinking, and his acts due to drinking aren't really seen -- are there a lack of consequences as a result?

  • What did you learn about Van Gogh's life and work from this movie? Did it inspire you to do further research?

  • Do you think it's necessary to be at least somewhat tortured to be a great artist? Why or why not?

  • In the movie, Van Gogh has a terrible fight with his friend Gauguin. Have you ever had a fight with a friend? How did this one feel similar or different?

  • How does this movie compare to other movies about famous artists?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama and art

Themes & Topics

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