Theo Decker (Oakes Fegley) is a 13-year-old in trouble at school, having been caught for smoking in the bathroom. Arriving in Manhattan early for their appointment with the Principal, Theo’s mother takes him to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see her favorite painting, “The Goldfinch.” As they stand before the painting, Theo notices a red-headed girl with an older man nearby. Suddenly, there is an explosion. When Theo regains consciousness, there is nothing but chalky air, debris and bodies. His mother is missing and the only person he sees is the older man. Seriously injured, he hands Theo his ring, points to the painting and instructs him to take it to Hobart and Blackwell, then dies. Wandering into the streets, Theo searches for his mother among the survivors then makes his way back to their apartment to await her return. She doesn’t. He calls 911.

Theo is taken to live with a school friend’s family The Barbours. Questioned by the police, Theo remembers little after banging his head during the explosion. The police are also looking for Theo’s alcoholic father who left years earlier. Mrs. Barbour (Nicole Kidman) agrees to keep Theo for a few weeks.

The Barbour family is strangely formal and cold compared to the loving relationship Theo had with his mother. Mrs. Barbour is obsessed with antiques, her home perfectly kept and sterile. Mr. Barbour (Boyd Gaines) is unaffectionate to his wife and children. Sailing is his love. Bipolar son Platt (Luke Kleintank), Mother’s favorite, is confrontational, destructive and often put in his room “if he can’t conform.” Kitsey (Carly Connors) and Toddy (Austin Weynant) are entitled and rude. Andy (Ryan Foust), the nerdy middle child, is Theo’s friend. He is able to break through Theo’s wall of pain and confusion. They laugh, play games and bring moments of life to the otherwise “Stepford” home. As the family readies for their summer in Maine; without Theo, he remembers the ring and looks up the address for Hobart and Blackwell.

There, Theo meets Hobie (Jeffrey Wright). Taking the ring, he invites Theo in. Hobie explains that the man in the museum was his business partner and friend Welty Blackwell (Robert Joy). Hobart and Blackwell sell antiques and do restoration. Soon Hobie takes Theo upstairs to meet another survivor, Pippa (Aimee Lawrence), Welty’s niece. A flute prodigy, Pippa has suffered a brain injury and can’t play again. Theo is a regular visitor becoming friends, sharing stories and meals. He is the old Theo; smiling, laughing with Pippa and living! Then his wayward father appears. 

Larry Becker (Luke Wilson) and bartender girlfriend, Xandre, (Sarah Paulson) arrive eager to take Theo and his trust fund, back to Vegas. Larry is a recovering alcoholic (five weeks sober) and sports gambler. Arriving in Vegas, Theo is taken to a housing development in the desert. Theirs is the only inhabited house; the others boarded up; in foreclosure. Life settles in to neglect and boredom until Theo is befriended by Boris (Finn Wolfhard), a Goth dressing Russian who lives with his father, a miner. Boris has lived in the Ukraine, Thailand, Malaysia, Alaska and Mexico. His father fights a lot and they move often. Boris introduces Theo to vodka, smoking and drugs. Who does Boris’s father really work for? 

Larry comes home manic and forces Theo to call his mother’s lawyer in New York. He needs $65,000. Theo questions Larry and is slapped around until he acquiesces. From the lawyer, Theo finds two calls have come from Vegas trying to use his Social Security number to get money but the trust is for school expenses only. Larry goes into a rage, Theo runs out but returns to find that Larry with a blood alcohol of over 3.0 has crashed in the desert and is dead. Theo runs back to New York, is taken in by Hobie and all appears to go well. Or is it?

What follows is guilt, betrayal, PTSD, drugs, redemption and the Russian Mafia. The key is the painting and the lives it touches. The act of a dazed young boy to save it and the memory of his mother is the beginning of the painting’s journey. Nothing will be as it should until it is returned. Follow the clues, gasp at the adventure, survive the intrigue until you find “The Goldfinch.”

“The Goldfinch” is rated R for drug use and language.