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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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Uses of "bastard." Discussions of god and Jesus Christ.
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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.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.