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article imageReview: ‘Gifted’ has a touching and undeniable authenticity Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Apr 8, 2017 in Entertainment
‘Gifted’ is the story of a bunch of adults fighting over what’s best for a young girl without ever considering what she needs to thrive.
Stories that centre on a child’s well-being are always interesting because its constitution often seems to be a matter of opinion. Of course there are minimum standards regarding food, shelter, safety, education and other necessities on which most people can agree, but beyond that things begin to become subjective – particularly when it comes to matters of money and who has more of it. However, a child’s happiness is reliant on much more than just material things and their best interests are not always served by bigger wallets. In director Marc Webb’s Gifted, a young girl’s future is debated by the courts after seven years of no one taking an interest.
Since his sister’s unexpected death, Frank (Chris Evans) has taken care of her daughter, Mary (Mckenna Grace). In spite of not leaving any explicit instructions regarding her care, with the help of his nurturing neighbour, Roberta (Octavia Spencer), Frank raises her as he hopes his sister would’ve wished. But after a few years of home schooling, he worries that she doesn’t have friends her age and enrolls her in the local school… where she stands out like a sore thumb. Her teacher (Jenny Slate) recognizes Mary is a mathematical savant, which quickly puts their life under the microscope. After being estranged for all of Mary’s life, Frank’s mother, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan), suddenly challenges him for custody. Mary’s mother was also a math genius and Evelyn wants a second chance at vicarious greatness.
Since the audience is first introduced to Frank and Mary, and is provided a glimpse into the loving, nurturing home he’s created, any question of who should be caring for her seems to have an obvious answer. As the narrative and hearing progresses, viewers get a better idea of the childhood Frank uses as the anti-model, certain his sister would’ve wanted a more traditional upbringing for her daughter regardless of her aptitude; one in which she isn’t constantly surrounded by tutors and mathematicians with no time for play. Conversely, the brief periods that Evelyn is permitted to spend with Mary are the epitome of everything Frank’s wanted to avoid. That said, his tendency to lean toward “normal” may have been slightly too far in the opposite direction, unintentionally denying her the opportunity to flourish in an advanced environment.
Even though the narrative and its outcome are relatively straightforward, the film is engaging because of the terrific performances from everyone… and the awesomeness that is Fred, the one-eyed, ginger cat. Evans appears to really connect with the story, or at least his young co-star, though he spends a fair amount of time looking sullen (and occasionally smug) in courtrooms or bars. Perhaps filmmakers were inspired by the cuteness of Dustin in Stranger Things when casting Grace, but her utter lack of front teeth is adorable. And her comprehension of the material and ability to recite the solutions to complex math equations is impressive. Duncan looks like the evil matriarch in any number tales about good vs. bad as her appearance is comprised of severe lines and stern looks; yet every so often she’ll smile or attempt to have a civil conversation with Frank that hints at what things may have been like at one time. In spite of Slate’s and Spencer’s initial involvement, their roles are relatively small; though they do give as much as possible with however little with which they have to work.
Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace and Lindsay Duncan
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