Story

At Eternity’s Gate is a biographical drama about the life of Vincent van Gogh. When the movie begins, Vincent (Willem Dafoe) has moved to Paris (1886) to continue his love of painting. There he meets Paul Gauguin (Oscar Isaac), and they become close friends who share a disdain of contemporary impressionism.

Two years later, Vincent moves to Arles, where he paints some of his most famous work. In Arles Vincent continues to suffer from the mental illness that has plagued him throughout his life. He suffers psychosis and depression and is often delusional. The people of Arles dislike him, and the local villagers, including children, frequently attack him. When Gauguin returns to Paris, Vincent suffers a breakdown and cuts off part of his ear to give to Gauguin.

Vincent spends a lot of his life in and out of mental asylums and he dies following a gunshot to the stomach. In the movie, he’s shot by young boys, but there’s speculation that it’s suicide. Vincent isn’t successful during his lifetime and he lives a life of poverty, supported financially by his younger brother, Theo (Rupert Friend), who trades in art.

Themes

Mental illness; suicide

Violence

At Eternity’s Gate has some violence. For example:

  • Some school children approach Vincent while he’s painting. One of the boys tries to touch the painting and Vincent reacts badly, grabbing the boy and pulling him away. The children all scream and run away.
  • Several children throw rocks at Vincent. Vincent grabs one of the boys, and some men attack Vincent.
  • Vincent meets a woman along the road that he wants to paint. She agrees but when she can’t get into the position Vincent wants, he gets annoyed and starts physically manipulating her body. She’s frightened and runs away.
  • Boys are playing with guns, which they shoot at Vincent. One of the boys then grabs Vincent’s painting from the easel and throws it into the river.

Sexual references

At Eternity’s Gate has some sexual references. For example:

  • Vincent asks a woman to stay with him for 50 francs.
  • A man talks about seeing women being raped.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

At Eternity’s Gate shows some use of substances. For example:

  • Vincent drinks a lot although he doesn’t have much money.
  • Many people smoke pipes.
  • People drink at pubs, bars and so on.

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Product placement

None of concern

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie.

Ideas to discuss with your children

At Eternity’s Gate is a biopic about Vincent van Gogh. Unfortunately, it’s shot entirely with a handheld camera to give it a sense of ‘cinéma vérité’, which might make some viewers feel motion sick. Some of the photography and scenery is quite beautiful, however, and most of the dark aspects of the movie are suggested rather than shown. Willem Dafoe is brilliant as the tortured artist.

This movie will appeal to older teenagers and adults, but because of its content and themes, it isn’t recommended for children under 13 years.

Values in At Eternity’s Gate that you could reinforce with your children include:

  • support and friendship.
  • understanding for people who are different

At Eternity’s Gate could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life questions like these:

  • Why are the villagers so unkind to Vincent? Is it because they’re afraid of what they don’t understand?
  • Are there different attitudes towards mental illness in society today? Has anything changed?