By Afra Nariman
Directed by: Marc Webb
Stars: Chris Evans, McKenna Grace, Octavia Spencer
A single man named Frank (played by Chris Evans) navigates the complications of taking care of his niece, Mary (played by McKenna Grace), who is a child prodigy in mathematics just as her mother was. Frank, keeping his sister’s wish for Mary in mind, wants a simple, normal life for Mary, but Frank’s mother, Mary’s grandmother, tries to break the two up by suing for custody when she finds out about Mary’s genius.
Gifted tells the wonderful story of a child and her guardian uncle who wants nothing more than a simple life for his niece, who at a young age is showing promise as a genius mathematician. The film explores the value of family, love and the importance of having a normal childhood, surrounded by people who love you and truly want what’s best for you. It also tells the story of a man who gave up everything to fulfill his sister’s dying wish for her daughter.
Frank came from a family of intellectuals. His mother and sister were both highly regarded as mathematicians, while Frank himself is a former philosophy professor. When Mary begins to show her gifted abilities at a young age, a dilemma presents itself to Frank: Should I continue to give Mary a simple, normal life? Or should I let her go to a school for gifted young students and cultivate her mathematical genius? Before he gets a chance to think about it in depth and decide with a clear mind, his mother comes into the picture, hoping to take Mary away and raise her the way that she believes is the correct way. Perhaps too much of the film’s story became about the court case that led her to be sent to a foster home, but the main story of family, friendship responsibility and unconditional love stayed apparent throughout.
Gifted ponders the questions of: what is the right way to raise a child, specifically an intellectually gifted one? Is there a responsibility to cultivate and challenge a gifted child, even if it minimizes the quality of their childhood? The film makes it clear that there isn’t always a right way to raise a child. Theres no blueprint or manual; rather, the important thing is to surround them with love and cultivate them as people first. That lesson becomes apparent at the end of the film when Frank explains to Mary that when he realized how amazing of a person she had become, he realized he was doing a good job in raising her.
Although the story can be predictable, and the film isn’t perfect, Gifted tells a genuinely heartfelt story that’s good for the whole family. It focuses on the vitality of love, friendship and childhood, and leaves us feeling good with an ending that satisfies all characters involved. The film does a good job at being naturally funny at times. Additionally, it is very well casted with Chris Evans playing the role of a deep-thinking guardian, the extremely talented and young McKenna Grace perfectly portraying a child genius and the amazing Octavia Spencer who plays their friend and neighbor. Spencer’s character’s relationship with both Frank and Mary is touching and often times provides affirmation to Frank that he is always keeping in mind what is best for Mary. The chemistry between Evans and Grace on screen is transparent and notable as well. Not a spectacular film, but Gifted is a good film that tells a pleasant story that will hit home for many who relate to having the dilemmas that come with raising kids.