Bringing best-selling novels to the big screen can often be fraught with hurdles and heartache – particularly when it involves a complex coming-of-age story that means so much to so many people. Thankfully, Donna Tartt’s 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning epic has been entrusted to safe hands being directed by BAFTA-winning film-maker John Crowley (of Brooklyn fame).
This faithful adaptation by screenwriter Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) features an extraordinary, multi-generational cast led by Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver) and Nicole Kidman (Big Little Lies). We begin with the 13-year-old Theodore “Theo” Dekker (played by Oakes Fegley, from Pete’s Dragon), who must come to terms with surviving the bomb blast at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art that cruelly takes his mother’s life. Only the painting of a small bird (a goldfinch) provides the boy with a much-needed talisman of hope as he faces an extremely difficult future without her. Among the other members of the exemplary cast are Aneurin Barnard, Finn Wolfhard, Sarah Paulson, Luke Wilson, Jeffrey Wright, Ashleigh Cummings, Willa Fitzgerald, Aimee Laurence, Denis O’Hare and Boyd Gaines.
There’s another, more technical reason why the film looks so striking on screen. That’s because it’s lensed by legendary Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins (whose credits include Blade Runner 2049, Skyfall and Sicario). The Devon native is a master at creating visual mood on screen and does not disappoint here.
Elgort’s own meteoric rise to fame mirrors the success of the novel, which spent a whopping 30 weeks on The New York Times’ best-seller list. From his breakout performances in 2014’s The Fault In Our Stars and the Divergent series franchise, through to his Golden Globe-nominated turn in Edgar Wright’s action-thriller Baby Driver, Elgort has proved himself to be a hugely watchable and versatile star, who’s up for just about anything.
Don’t be surprised, too, to find awards chatter circling The Goldfinch in the months ahead, as the Academy begins the process of deliberations ahead of the Oscars in early 2020. A heart-warming rollercoaster ride of emotions, The Goldfinch is a moving story that is made for our times. One can’t imagine a more powerful awards contender than this.