Story

After his mother is killed in a terrorist bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, young Theo (Oakes Fegley) is taken in by the Barbour family. Mrs Barbour (Nicole Kidman) helps Theo as he struggles to come to terms with his loss. An unlikely friendship also develops between Theo and Hobie (Jeffrey Wright), an antique restorer, when they’re brought together as a result of a chance encounter after the bombing.

When Theo’s father (Luke Wilson) and his girlfriend Xandra (Sarah Paulson) suddenly appear in Theo’s life, Theo knows going with them isn’t in his best interests. But he has no choice and finds himself living with them in a deserted pocket of Las Vegas, surrounded by foreclosed homes and endless sand. In this wasteland that Theo meets classmate Boris (Finn Wolfhard), and they strike up a friendship that will have long-lasting and far-reaching effects on both their lives.

When Theo’s father is killed, Theo (played as an adult by Ansel Elgort) returns to New York. Chance encounters once again change the course of his life and help him realise that sometimes something good can come from something bad.

Themes

Death of a parent; family breakdown; drug and alcohol dependence; suicide

Violence

The Goldfinch has some violence. For example:

  • Theo has repeated flashbacks to the explosion that killed his mother. He sees bodies lying in the rubble.
  • A boy is shoved into a locker, and Theo knocks a guy down.
  • Boris’s father beats him, repeatedly punching and kicking him. Boris comes to school the next day badly bruised and with a black eye.
  • Boris talks about the time his father killed a man in a mine.
  • Theo’s dad slaps him hard on the face a couple of times.
  • Theo and Boris are involved in a shoot-out.

Sexual references

The Goldfinch has some sexual references. For example:

  • When he sits down to breakfast with the family, the oldest Barbour boy asks, ‘Who do I have to blow to get a cup of coffee around here?’
  • Boris ogles Xandra’s bikini-clad body and asks Theo, ‘Would you mind if I hooked up with her?’

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

The Goldfinch shows heavy and frequent alcohol and other drug use and abuse. For example:

  • Both adults and teenagers drink lots of wine, vodka and beer.
  • People smoke a lot.
  • People use lots of drugs including acid, cocaine, pills and something they put under their tongues that makes them hallucinate and laugh uncontrollably.
  • A girl sucks a morphine lollipop and shares it with Theo.
  • Boris tells Theo about when his mother got so drunk that she fell out of a window and died. Boris also says his dad drinks so much vodka that he can no longer feel his feet.
  • Boris demonstrates how to chop up pills so that you have a more intense high when you snort them.
  • Theo’s dad is killed in a car accident. It’s revealed that his blood alcohol was .39.
  • Kitsy tells Theo that he can take all the drugs he wants. Theo tries to kill himself by taking a lot of pills and washing them down with vodka.

Nudity and sexual activity

The Goldfinch has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:

  • There are a couple of naked pictures in an art gallery. One shows a full frontal of a naked woman.
  • Theo’s stepmother wears very revealing and skimpy outfits. She sunbathes in a tiny bikini.
  • Boris kisses Theo on the mouth.
  • Theo and Kitsy sleep together.

Product placement

Aside from a close-up shot of a Steinway piano with the brand name clearly displayed and repeated references to Chippendale antique furniture, The Goldfinch has no product placement.

Coarse language

The Goldfinch has frequent coarse language.

Ideas to discuss with your children

The Goldfinch is a drama based on the 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Donna Tartt. The cast gives great performances and the plot is well structured. But this isn’t a family movie and is best suited to older, more mature audiences.

The main messages from this movie are that something good can come from something bad, that people live and die, and that fine art should live forever.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include appreciation for fine art, music and antiques, resilience, forgiveness, empathy and kindness.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like alcohol and other drug abuse, overdosing, shoplifting, drink driving, gambling and dangerous friendships.