The Goldfinch provides a classic example of the challenges present in condensing a large sprawling novel into a single two and a half hour film. The novels complexity ultimately failing in the translation to the screen. While in turn creating a frustrating and disappointing film. With the films solid performances and beautiful cinematography drowned out by a three act structure that feels lost in its own narrative.
Switching between the adult Theo Decker (Ansel Elgort) and his early teenage life. The Goldfinch spans a 14 year period alongside the journey from teenager to young man. A journey where Theo is haunted by the death of his mother at the age of 13 in a terrorist bombing at a city art gallery. The final painting they both looked at being Carel Fabritius’s 1654 masterpiece ‘The Goldfinch‘.
Following the terrorist explosion young Theo (Oakes Fegley) walks among the dust, rubble and bodies. Finding and helping a dying man whose daughter he had been drawn to in the gallery before calm descended into horror. The dying man entrusting a ring to his care, asking him to return it to an address in the city. While young Theo noticing the painting of The Goldfinch in the dust, impulsively takes it. Carefully placing it in his backpack as he stumbles from the building into the light.
Following the disaster, Theo is at first taken in by his close friend’s mother (Nicole Kidman). His life haunted by the death of his own mother, while gifted with the opportunities of wealth and security the Barbour family offer. While his stolen treasure is kept wrapped and hidden; the final memories of his mother held in the form of a priceless painting. Meanwhile, on returning the ring given to him to the address given. Theo builds a relationship with the business partner of the man who died in the bombing. An antique dealer named Hobie (Jeffrey Wright), who duly schools Theo in all things antique. Not only becoming a father figure to the young boy, but also allowing Theo to reconnect with young girl from the art gallery bombing. Who lays recovering from her ordeal above the antique shop.