On the big screen, The Goldfinch takes flight

Young Theo (Fegley) gets an education from his mentor and caretaker Hobie (Wright)

ON A MARCH DAY ON NEW YORK CITY’S UPPER EAST Side, producers huddle on the narrow first floor of an art gallery, studying their monitors and surrounded by pictures of flora and fauna. Eagles and herons adorn the walls, but the bird that serves as the focal point of this big production is much daintier: small enough to perch on a finger, yet still beautiful enough to start a sensation.

The bird, of course, is a goldfinch—or rather a painting of one from the 17th century by the Dutch artist Carel Fabritius. That indelible image was the inspiration for Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize–winning 2013 novel, The Goldfinch, which tracks the winding coming-of-age story of a teenage boy who steals the painting from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the aftermath of a bombing

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