Film Review: Gifted
The performances of Chris Evans and most poignantly McKenna Grace, are what make Gifted most memorable.
Ever since I’ve had kids, any kind of film or TV show that highlights the special relationship between parents and their offspring has me reaching for the hankies. Whether it’s The Pursuit of Happyness, Finding Nemo or One Born Every Bloody Minute, it doesn’t take much to turn me into a blubbering wreck, these days.
And it’s the main reason I think Gifted will be a divisive film. Cinema goers yet to experience the unadulterated joy of parenthood (that’s a joke by the way) or those whose kids have long since grown up and left home may well find it rather one paced and predictable. But if like me, your kids are still at an age when you are the centre of their world, then this film will cut you to pieces, emotionally speaking.
Starring Chris Evans as Frank Adler, uncle and adopted parent to seven-year-old maths genius Mary, it centres around his fight to keep custody of his deceased sister’s daughter and give her a normal life under pressure from his cold-hearted mother, who wants Mary to move in with her and attend a school for the gifted.
And Frank has his reasons. His sister and Mary’s mother Diane was also a maths genius and after living a sheltered life thanks to their controlling mother, she killed herself, leaving Frank in charge of her six month old daughter.
Evans is all sad-eyed, home-spun charm in the lead role and he pitches it well, especially considering he is rarely off screen. It’s an act that could grate in the wrong hands but Evans is watchable throughout. Lindsay Duncan is a little too much of a ‘wicked stepmother’ cliché as his mum, Evelyn but the other support cast put in solid, if not spectacular showings. Octavia Spencer is suitably feisty as Mary’s best friend/babysitter (“she’s 40 or 50 or 30-something” she tells the family liason officer as the court case kicks off), while Jenny Slate does the best with her somewhat functional role as Mary’s teacher and Frank’s love interest, Bonnie.
But it’s McKenna Grace as the child prodigy who turns Gifted into something special. She gets the best lines; the moment she says “Goooood Moooorning Miss Stevensooooon” in that classic classroom voice when her teacher stumbles out of her uncle’s bathroom in nothing more than a towel is genuinely hilarious, and some of scenes with Frank are incredibly touching. There’s one in particular, when he takes her to a hospital ward to see the joy on a father’s face as his child is born and he rushes into to tell the rest of the family, that truly hits an emotional chord for any parent, especially when Mary naively joins in the celebrating with a family she’s never met. Mary then asks Frank who did that when she was born? “I did,” he replies.
And that scene probably sums up how affected you’ll be by Gifted. If that sounds like the kind of corn that will have you reaching for the sick bucket, then maybe Gifted isn’t for you. But if like me, the tears start welling at the thought of it, then I urge you to go and see an film I found thought-provoking, charming and just a little bit emotionally draining.