The Goldfinch: A powerful on-screen portrayal of Prize winning novel

by Dublin Gazette
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It’s rare that a film has such a profound impact, that I’m left thinking about it hours, even days later.

The Goldfinch (Cert 16, 149 mins) is one of those films that burrows into your mind, leaving you almost reeling afterward.

Based on the Pulitzer award winning book by Donna Tartt, early reviews rendered expectations low. Many rubbished the movie adaption as a low-quality reproduction, but who could expect an 860-page book to be executed perfectly in just over two hours?

As someone who has read the novel and is a fan of same, I was skeptical entering the screen – but I needn’t have been.

The film immerses you within the world of Theodore Decker from the get go, though producing more questions than answers for those who haven’t knowledge of the plot in the first instance.

A young Theodore (Oakes Fegley) lost his mother in an explosion at the Metropolitan Museum.

The pair were in the museum viewing one of her favourite paintings – The Goldfinch – on their way to see Theo’s school principal when his mother is killed.

Theo subsequently spends his life both blaming himself for his mother’s untimely death, and hiding the fact that he stole her favourite painting from the rubble in her honour.

Questions are soon answered, if you pay attention, as we dive into the tumultous world of Theo – from his mother’s death, to living with the well-to-do Barbour family, then his relocation to live with his alcoholic father and beyond.

Fegley’s performance as a young Theo is astounding, with the 14-year-old manifesting an emotional performance that has you crying when Theo does, and laughing too.

It’s a perfect casting, really, to complement Ansel Elgort, who plays an older Theo, dealing antiques in New York City whilst battling his inner demons following his turbulent childhood.

Fegley is truly a miniature Elgort in this regard, a remark on the perfect casting of each role in this movie, including that of Nicole Kidman as Ms Barbour, a motherly figure to Theo.

Elgort has a certain charisma, seen in his other roles, that seems reserved in The Goldfinch. Not to a fault, however. Elgort is able to turn the charm on and off as needed, something critical to his turn as Theo.

It would be amiss not to mention Finn Wolfhard as young Boris and Aneurin Barnard as adult Boris, too. Whilst the psuedo-Russian accent from both can be too false at times, both add another level of humanity to Theo’s plight, even a lighter edge to the heavy handed plot.

The Goldfinch – the painting – plays a key role throughout the movie, as it does in the novel. A flaw to the film is that whilst we know something will, eventually, happen to the coveted masterpiece, it appears that everything happens slowly, then all at once, the true suspense and drama crammed into the last quarter of the near-three hour screening.

Directed by Cork man John Crowley, also behind Brooklyn, the style of film is much the same – beautifully delivered, though perhaps drawn out at points.

This movie has a lot of highs and lows, and twists that, while expected, still have you on the edge of your seat.

  • Verdict: 8/10

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