At Eternity’s Gate, the newest film from Academy-Award nominated director Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), takes a deep dive into the mind of Vincent Van Gogh. Starring Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project) as the artist, At Eternity’s Gate follows Van Gough in his last years of life, as the now-famous artist struggled with mental health and his final desperate attempts to make a mark on the world of art.

A painter himself, Schnabel’s film shines in its artistry. The cinematography by Benoit Delhomme is breathtaking, and Tatiana Lisovskaya‘s melodic score accompanies beautifully. The plot, however, leaves little to be desired.

The story follows Van Gough as he navigates his way through his own mental health struggles, in and out of mental institutions while being continuously supported by his brother Theo (played by Rupert Friend). Dafoe’s Oscar-nominated performance is stellar, but it’s somewhat mitigated by his anachronistic American accent amidst the French-speaking actors surrounding him. Oscar Isaac (Show Me A Hero) stars as Van Gough’s fellow artist and confidante Paul Gauguin, although the Golden-Globe winning actor isn’t given much to do with the role. Meanwhile, Emmanuelle Seigner (Venus In Fur) plays a local madame who befriends the lonely artist, although her role is almost entirely forgettable.


The film itself follows a confusing story arc, and the uncomfortably long shots of Dafoe walking with his back toward the camera are only slightly mitigated by Lisovskaya’s music. The film attempts to delve deep into Van Gogh’s mind, but ultimately fails to provide the audience with a complex picture of who this great artist truly was. Instead of delving as far into the complexity of Van Gogh’s mind, Schnabel chose to focus on his art. But ultimately we’ve all seen Van Gogh’s art before – it’s his mind we really want to know. And despite the film’s promise to take us there, it doesn’t deliver.

At Eternity’s Gate is currently available on Blu-Ray and Digital.