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TIFF 2019 Film Review: “The Goldfinch” (2019) ★★★★


How do we react to grief? What do we do when we lose our dearest person on earth? While the question may sound rhetorical to you, remember, with seven billion world population the response can be even more varied than you can imagine in such a diverse population. How about art though? How do we handle it when we commit a crime against it? When we take the only thing that should have been immortal? The beauty of “The Goldfinch” directed by John Crowley is not about whether you read the book or not, or whether the film stayed truthful to the Pulitzer winner novel, but the main point which the film is so sharp at delivering – we people do die but the things we leave behind live forever.

A 13-year-old boy, Theo Decker (Oakes Fegley as young Theo), goes to a Museum in York with his mother. A tragic bomb explosion claims his mother’s life but spares his. As the years go by, antique seller Theo, still grieving the loss, continuously blames himself for what happened in the museum, before the tragic event, and after. But the cry of his heart was not related to the loss of his mother nor the father who will depart the world as well but for the Goldfinch painting painted by Carel Fabritus back in 1654 that he stole after the tragic explosion.

As there is a lot to describe what exactly happens in “The Goldfinch”, the film in the meantime follows our young hero, his life choices, friendship with Boris, and his tender relationship with Ms. Barbour (Nicole Kidman) who took him under her wing during the most difficult time of Theo’s life. However, no matter what happens, the opening sequence suggests that Theo’s soul is tormented by what he had done as an act of betrayal against art, he believes, and I am sure you will as well. From that moment on, he will make hard decisions and not all of them are the right ones. But one thing is certain – he won’t rest until he returns back to the museum the only thing he held so dearly due to the double loss – The Goldfinch.

As someone who never read the actual book, the film fits perfectly into its narrative. It’s not too long to feel bored, it’s full of symbolism, great cinematography, performances, the most notably by Nicole Kidman and Okaes Fegley while Ansel Elgort does his best to capture the dark past of his childhood which he flawlessly carries with himself throughout his youth. As for the reviews the film received, mostly negative ones, I think it truly does not deserve it. The film is smart, it has its point, and does its best to extract the best part of the book, as you may agree, even though a limited series would have been able to satisfy all those who look for every page of a critically acclaimed novel to be captured in the film.

In the end, we must remember that there’s no democracy existing in the cinematic world. We don’t get to decide what part of the book to leave aside and which ones to include as part of the adaptation. There’s always risk involved and “The Goldfinch” is an ambitious project that fulfilled its purpose. This is why I believe there will be many people who will disagree with a film adaptation of this beautifully written story but make no mistake, it’s worthwhile seeing. As for the major takeaway from it, one should remember – art deserves a sacrifice. Any form of art must be cherished and taken care of. And only the ones who feel closely connected to it will understand the highest price to be paid if art or the existence of something remarkable is taken for granted. Theo knows what he had done. He regrets it and he must do something about it to console himself through the upcoming actions that will define him as a potentially successful man in the future if he succeeds with his dangerous mission.

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