The Goldfinch is based off of a 2013 novel of the same name by American author Donna Tartt. Directed by John Crowley, the film follows Theo Decker (played by Oakes Fegley and Ansel Elgort as a child and as an adult respectively), and his life after a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art killed Theo’s mother, resulting in Theo stealing the famous painting, The Goldfinch, by Carel Fabritius.
The story is told by going back and forth between flashbacks to the past and present day. While not a bad storytelling technique on its own, The Goldfinch leaves the viewer feeling as though some scenes are left out between the flashbacks and flashforwards. Many of Theo’s relationships seem to grow spontaneously without many apparent foundations, leaving these relationships to feel hollow. Theo’s own character development often feels abrupt for the same reason, which makes child Theo and adult Theo seem like different characters at times.
The film is also stricken with many instances of awkward dialogue and clunky interactions between characters. On a few occasions, Theo is bombarded with questions without being given any time to answer, although in one scene this is used beneficially to create the emotion in the scene.
The film is absolutely beautiful in its cinematography. The movie is shot after shot of fantastically framed scenes. The film utilizes colors brilliantly and often uniquely and effectively implements contrast between the characters and their settings. The soundtrack is also great, whether it be the original score by Trevor Gureckis, or the other music featured in the soundtrack, including “Otherside” by Perfume Genius, “Your Silent Face” by New Order, various songs by Glenn Gould, among others.
The film provides a captivating character study of Theo and how he deals with loss, tragedy, heartbreak, and misfortune. The film compares and contrasts how Theo deals with his tragic luck as a child versus as a young adult and shows his journey from introduction to drugs and alcohol up through his addictions. The film leaves the viewer feeling pity for Theo and creating an utter sense of sorrow for his situation.
Because the film alternates between the past and the present, the entire story is never apparent to the viewer until the very end of the film. This works to the films benefit, leaving a sense of mystery that keeps the viewer interested and on the edge of their seat for the whole movie. Rewatches of the film would almost certainly reveal aspects the viewer missed the first time.
Overall, The Goldfinch has its weak points but manages to be an interesting and fascinating study of one person’s life after tragedy. This film is enjoyable, and is certainly worthy of multiple viewings.