Directed by: Marc Webb
Written by: Tom Flynn
Produced by: Karen Lunder, Andy Cohen
Starring: Chris Evans, McKenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan, Jenny Slate and Octavia Spencer.
Not usually one for tear-jerkers, I came into Gifted expecting a family drama. What I didn’t expect was to become so absorbed into the story of this caring uncle, Frank Adler (Chris Evans) and his brilliant young niece, Mary (McKenna Grace) who’s a mathematics genius.
Written by Tom Flynn, who was inspired by his own brilliant sister, the script explores family relationships where mothers can’t see the needs of her child, only the gifts to be given to humanity, where uncles are forced into a position to look after a young child without really knowing how to go about it, yet taking the responsibility of creating a family. Not a usual family, but one of a young brilliant girl, an uncle who probably drinks too much but is all heart, the ever-loving landlady, Roberta (Octavia Spencer) who’s really young Mary’s best friend and Fred, the one-eyed ginger cat.
Movies where a child is the centre and focus can create a gravitational pull towards the precocious. And there was play around this with young Mary. However, it was quickly made clear that Frank was going to have none of it. And seeing the interaction between the two, at how comfortable the young girl was, lying all over this uncle of hers, quickly melted away any pretension.
This was a beautiful and sweet film.
The addition of high-level mathematics such as The Navier Stokes Equations added to the story without being the true weight. Gifted is more about the burden that being a genius has on Mary and those around her; of how to let a girl just be a little girl while also nurturing brilliance.
Dr Jordan Ellenberg was brought on board as a Technical Advisor to make sure the mathematics was correct and he states, ‘Genius is a thing that happens, not a kind of person’. And the film shows Mary as an ordinary little girl who just happens to be brilliant at maths.
All the cast were believable from the overbearing mother, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) to the sweet and love interest, Bonnie (Jenny Slate) as Mary’s teacher. But certainly, the stand-out was Chris Evans as Frank the uncle. There is a beauty and depth in the man. And it was such a pleasure to see him in a role, not as a superhero (think, Captain America), but as an ordinary man. Well, still behaving like a hero.
I hate letting tears fall with a big lump in my throat in the cinema, but this one was worth it.
There’s so much more to life than money and achievement – there’s also the love between a young girl and a one-eyed ginger cat.
As director, Marc Webb (The Amazing Spiderman 2 (2014), (500) Days of Summer (2009)) described the script, the film’s simple, warm and uncynical.
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