Crowley’s film is one of vignettes, some of which possess more power than others, and it’s to his credit that despite the fractured nature of the story, we’re compelled to know where he’s taking us and what will happen to Theo, an often unknowable protagonist. Some might have sniffed at the casting of Elgort, who received similar head scratches when he was cast as Tony in Steven Spielberg’s forthcoming adaptation of West Side Story, but he’s surprisingly convincing here, quietly anchoring an uneven film with poise. There’s also reliably strong character work from Jeffrey Wright as one of the many adult figures he encounters along the way while as mentioned, it’s yet another strong performance from an on-a-roll Kidman.
It’s a handsomely made adaptation that might lack a particularly distinctive style other than studio prestige, but it shows how Crowley has progressed as a film-maker since Brooklyn, a film I found to be rather prosaic. He proves himself to be a safe hand for the most part as screenwriter Peter Straughan shows himself to be mostly adept at bringing a dense novel to the screen. But as the film enters its third act, the emotional centre never really materialises, a romantic connection fizzles out and a silly plot contrivance as well as an uninvolving lurch into thriller theatrics dampens our interest and investment. The propulsion that got us here doesn’t really lead to a gratifying payoff, like taking a long road trip that reaches a dead end, and as the film starts to wrap up, there’s not enough of a throughline to justify both the film’s mammoth length and its grand sense of self.