I saw this film at a home-town cinema house in my city, even though the larger chains would be getting it, too, I found out. I’m glad I went; other than the change of scenery from the larger theatres I frequent, this film fits the independent cinema atmosphere. I’m happy to support smaller theatres such as the Little, keep relatively-low-budget movies like this on their screens.
From Marc Webb—the director of the Amazing Spider-Man movies—Gifted is a very welcome feel-good movie, at its core.
Chris Evans and young Mckenna Grace are magic on-screen. Frank (Evans) has been the father that Mary (Grace) never had, and she—being the only part of his sister he has left—is just as beloved by him. The authority figures that threaten to tear these two apart throughout the film aren’t really “villains”, either; their heads are in the right place, but these elders can’t quite seem to grasp the importance of each to the other. Octavia Spencer’s pseudo-motherly role is present throughout the film—and she, too, is a nurturing and supportive element—without being exhaustive. Jenny Slate, as always, is a pleasure, and acts as the stand-in for any one of us that would be—looking in on such a perplexing situation—confused and torn as to how to react.
It’s clear throughout the film that Mary is at a crossroads, as is Frank. She wants a childhood—as does he, for her—but such a talent shouldn’t be wasted, either, and both of them know that. As presented in the trailer, Mary’s “best interests” are in contention all throughout, and both sides are presented very well. Even those that are “working against” Frank are just looking out for Mary, so that her one-in-a-million intelligence isn’t spoiled in a Down South grade school. I can see where they’re coming from, but Frank’s love for the girl—wanting her to grow up feeling normal, learning social skills instead of being a reclusive brainiac—is even more compelling, and makes for an interesting resolution.
The soundtrack is simple, but captivates with tunes from Cat Stevens, Little Big Town, and David Newman. The unique camerawork and direction on the part of the filmmakers make for a homey, feel-good movie about what’s really important in life.
The math in this isn’t overwhelming—doesn’t kill the up-beat mood or make for viewer head-scratching. Mary’s genius in advanced math is a macguffin, more than anything—this girl’s smart, and her future is wide-open. It’s really a “your special talent here” kind of scenario. She can end up having a marvelous career, or end up like her mother, trapped by her gift. Whatever the case, Frank and Mary’s relationship—the core of the film—is a timeless reminder that family is the best gift of all, and being deprived of that can truly ruin a child’s hope for the future.
A heartfelt film about family and the meaning of childhood, Gifted has a genuine indie film feel, and was worth every penny I spent for tickets.
Final ‘Risk Assessment: ****/*.
Next review: The Circle (Apr. 28)