Gifted poster and scene

Gifted (2017)

Director Marc Webb
Writer Tom Flynn
Cast Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace, Octavia Spencer and Lindsay Duncan
Here for trailer on IMDb

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Anna Karenina

This was one of my 2020 Netflix finds, during that time this year when home was where my butt stayed. The trailer promised a light, easy film with some drama around a child with out of the ordinary abilities. My brain thought along the lines of Kramer vs. Kramer or Rain Man maybe. Surprised pleasantly to discover the film was neither.

Told with humour, dry and witty, the film is feel good throughout. I love movies with families at their crux, it usually means there will be complexity developed through history among the characters’ relationships with one another. Gifted delivers on this and does it well. Frank and Mary share the sort of father/daughter relationship of young dreams. He is encouraging, expressive and considerate in his parenting style. Mary is intelligent and precocious yet naive about the world like any young child. Her ability to grasp difficult maths is contrasted with her desire to be part of her family and happy as a kid. Evelyn has buried a young daughter, is estranged from her son and has never met her grand-daughter. I expected to feel sorry for her but she incited a lot of rage and frustration; kudos to her single minded, underhandedness in achieving what she wanted.

I thought Octavia Spencer’s Roberta, as the quirky feminine influence in Mary’s life (prior to starting school) was a little wasted in this film. While the character is important, and necessary to the story and our characters lives, Octavia didn’t need to play this role, it was far too easy for someone of her calibre. Chris Evans as Frank was equal parts charming and warm, aloof yet focused. There was more to see and feel here then as Steve Rogers, and he really did feel like Frank and no one else. As a man forced into responsibility that he is uncertain about the character arcs and acting were on point. Evelyn and Mary do own the bulk of this movie and both actors do a stupendous job in showing us the core of their characters.

The side arc of a blossoming love story between Frank and Bonnie (Mary’s new teacher) was largely unnecessary. I can see why the romance could be a draw card but it doesn’t add anything significant. The portions between them could just as easily have occurred between Frank and Roberta.

Watch this with the family, or if you’re feeling lonely, or if it’s mid-week and you need a refresher on why we continue to go on. There’s hope and humour to be found here.

Four Stars*

Synopsis

Mary, a five year old child prodigy is being brought up by her boat repairer uncle Frank. Mary begins primary school with trepidation, finding her fellow students strange and difficult to interact with. She quickly demonstrates that she is intelligent above her years and her well-meaning teach sets events in motion that lead to a custody battle between Frank and his estranged mother, Evelyn.

Mary’s mother Diane was also a child prodigy and skilled mathematician who spent her life working on one of the unsolved Millennium Prize problems, guided and hounded to do so by Evelyn. Diane found it difficult to interact with her peers and yearned for a simpler, normal life which Evelyn’s demands made near impossible. Diane dies, leaving her daughter to Frank’s care, which is where the story begins.

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