Australian Council on Children and the Media

The Goldfinch

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Not suitable under 16, parental guidance to 18 (heavy and frequent drug and alcohol use, themes, language, violence)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for The Goldfinch
  • a review of The Goldfinch completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 1 October 2019.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 16 Not suitable due to heavy and frequent drug and alcohol use/abuse, themes, language and violence.
Children aged 16–18 Parental guidance recommended due to heavy and frequent drug and alcohol use/abuse and themes.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: The Goldfinch
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes, drug use, violence, coarse language
Length 149 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

After his mother is killed in a terrorist bombing at a museum, young Theo (Oakes Fegley) is taken in by the Barbour family and 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 a chance encounter after the bombing ensures that they should meet. When Theo’s father (Luke Wilson) and girlfriend Xandra (Sarah Paulson) suddenly appear in his life Theo knows going with them is not in his best interests. However, given no choice, Theo finds himself living with them in a deserted pocket of Las Vegas, surrounded by foreclosed homes and endless sand. It is in this wasteland that Theo meets fellow classmate Boris (Finn Wolfhard) and they strike up a friendship that will have long lasting and far reaching consequences on both their lives. When his father is killed Theo (played as an adult by Ansel Elgort) returns to New York where chance encounters once again change the course of his life and help him realise that sometimes something good can come from something bad.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Death of a parent, family breakdown, drug and alcohol dependence, suicide.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • 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’ father beats him, repeatedly punching and kicking him. He shows up at school the next day badly bruised and with a black eye.
  • Boris references the time when his father killed a man down 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.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • The image of a young girl, injured in the explosion, lying in bed with her head shaved due to an enormous, gash-like, scar running the length of her skull and held together with staples.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • In a rage, Theo’s dad screams and shoves things off shelves. The sound and images are intense and frightening. Theo is terrified and runs out into the desert.
  • Theo wakes up after the bombing in a room filled with rubble and ash. He goes to look for his mother, stepping over bodies in the process and finds an old man who is sitting up in the rubble and bleeding from the head. The man is very intense and insistent, speaking in a raspy voice. Then his eyes suddenly roll back and he dies. The scene is somewhat surreal and creepy.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Nothing further of concern.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Aside from a closeup shot of a Steinway piano where the brand name is clearly displayed and a reverence for antique furniture with repeated mention of Chippendale, no product placement was noted in this movie.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • 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?”

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • 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 that leaves little to the imagination.
  • Boris kisses Theo on the mouth.
  • Theo and Kitsy sleep together.

Use of substances

There is heavy and frequent use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Frequent use of substances throughout the film, including lots of drinking of wine, vodka and beer, both by adults and adolescents.
  • Lots of smoking and a variety of drug use including acid, cocaine, pills and something they put under their tongues causing them to 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, she fell out of a window and died and how 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 and it is disclosed that his blood alcohol was .39.
  • Kitsy tells Theo that he can take all the drugs he wants so Theo tries to kill himself by taking a whole bunch of pills and washing them all down with vodka.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including frequent use of the words:

  • “Shit”
  • “Fuck”
  • “Fucker”
  • “Fucking”
  • “Bullshit”, “Bastard”, “Prick” and “Asshole” are also used occasionally.

In a nutshell

The Goldfinch is a drama based on the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Donna Tartt. Performances are well acted and the plot will keep you guessing. This is not a family film 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 parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Appreciation for fine art, music and antiques
  • Resilience
  • Forgiveness
  • Empathy
  • Kindness.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Overdosing
  • Shoplifting
  • Drink driving
  • Gambling
  • Choosing the wrong kind of friend.

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