Home » The Goldfinch review – A Painting of Beauty, Melancholy and Redemption, It’s Actually Good

The Goldfinch review – A Painting of Beauty, Melancholy and Redemption, It’s Actually Good

by Ben Rolph

Contrary to popular opinion, The Goldfinch stands as a film of great success in my mind. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to a slew of negative reviews and proceeded to suffer big at the box office shortly after. Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel is about trauma, theft and addiction.

Leading a stellar cast is Ansel Elgort and his younger counterpart, Oakes Fegley. The Goldfinch has a nice mix of melancholy, darkness and heart. Directed by Brooklyn director, John Crowley, his direction is something to marvel at and although, yes, there are flaws, it sure is a well-rounded film worthy of attention


Theodore Decker (Ansel Elgort) was 13 years old when his mother was mysteriously killed in a bombing at the MoMa in New York. A range of flashbacks piece together the puzzle of the trauma that Theo faced. The tragedy forever changes the course of his future, sending him on a path of pain, suffering, anguish and redemption, and even love. All that remains is a ‘stolen’ painting of a goldfinch, a lingering symbol of Theo’s trauma and the hope that remains.

The Goldfinch works because of its heart, it is truly endearing and affecting. The cast is rather incredible, especially Ansel Elgort and his evocative kindness and brittle nature. Superbly backing Elgort in flashbacks is Nicole Kidman, the mother figure to the lost-Theodore. Kidman is on top form, delivering a performance full of the slightest subtly, quietly evoking feelings of melancholy, love and kindness. Jeffrey Wright reins in and assists the young Fegley, eventually nicely works along with Elgort.


There is something so true and beautiful about the way Crowley brings the film together. Backing the stacked-cast and Pulitzer Prize winning material is Rodger Deakins and his cinematography, the pictures that are created are unlike no other. Deakins’ work here is some of his finest, it’s almost as if every frame is a painting.

Although the good far out-ways the bad, there is still some faults with The Goldfinch. Mainly the narrative structure and the way it’s written. The flashing back and forth is neatly done, yet some of the extended scenes and story-lines of the past linger for far too long. Specifically, anything with his father (Luke Wilson) or Boris (Finn Wolfhard). The abusive father story-line is full of cliches and Wolfhard’s noticeably terrible Russian accent is a little hard to fully stomach. A trimming in the edit and writers room could’ve done this picture a whole lot of good, cutting down to the finest aspects that work so well and leaving those archetypal dragged out plot points aside.


The Goldfinch did not disappoint. It’s deeply affecting and endearing, and it may just produce a tear or two. Ansel Elgort and Nicole Kidman deliver stunningly inward performances, holding the past together with the present. Like most films, there are flaws, but by god, is it beautiful.

4/5 Stars ★★★★☆

Ben Rolph

THE GOLDFINCH is out in UK & US Cinemas NOW


1 comment

moogatwo September 21, 2019 | 7:10 pm - 7: 10 pm

mpletely disagree on Finn Wolfhard. This movie was such a chore to watch, with the most baffling editing and narrative decision and structure in the history of adapting a novel to film. Standout performances was between Oakes Fegley and Wolfhard. He is *great* in this movie and the only character that was truly interesting or resonant in any way. Not only that, but his presence is the only thing that starts making Theo more interesting, who up until then seems to exist only as a wooden cypher. I’d give the movie two stars and at least one and a half of those stars is solely due to his performance. He has charisma oozing out of his pores, and I would’ve watched a whole coming-of-age movie of him and Theo getting high and stealing things.


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