Gifted (Fox Searchlight Pictures) Cert 12a, 101 mins
One of the main benefits of having a card that allows you to see as many films as you can fit in your hectic schedule being Spider-Man and writing potentially award winning blogs is taking a chance on something you wouldn’t normally pay to watch. It’s an expensive old business going to the movies so big blockbusters take the lions share of the box office while smaller films don’t always get the audience they deserve.
Gifted is firmly up there as one of those films that is more than worth taking a chance on. It’s a warm, funny and emotional movie about prodigiously talented seven-year-old girl Mary Adler and her uncle Frank as they battle to keep the life they’ve made for themselves in Florida after the death of her mathematical genius mother.
Sure it doesn’t sound like a laugh a minute thrill ride but the beauty of film is being able to enjoy more than just explosions and car chases. Which there is always a time and place for in my cinematic universe but a touching drama like Gifted is just as worthy of your attention and appreciation – it delivers an overwhelmingly enjoyable experience and watching something that the makers, cast and crew have put so much into is so worthwhile.
The whole cast are excellent but the heart of the film are Mary and Frank, played by McKenna Grace and Chris Evans respectively. Both actors are on fine form as the niece and uncle trying to make their way in the world – looking to lead a normal life in spite of Mary inheriting her mother’s mathematical skills and struggling to cope at a regular school where she is miles ahead of her fellow pupils and the teachers.
The trouble caused by having such a talent is tackled with humour and heart. It’s not easy for a clever child to know they are so far ahead of their peers and the adults around them and inevitably young Mary plays up to this in various ways like talking back to her teacher and tackling a bully on the school bus with extreme prejudice. All because Uncle Frank is doing his best to keep her grounded and be a kid rather than a plaything for professors keen to take her childhood away and replace it with a life of constant studying and learning at an accelerated level.
Unfortunately for the pair Mary’s behaviour causes the school to reach out to Frank’s estranged mother and Mary’s grandmother Evelyn (the always excellent Scottish actress Lindsay Duncan) who having lost her genius daughter realises her granddaughter has the same talents and decides the girl would be better off with her. Lawyers get involved and things start to get personal and nasty between mother and son.
An emotional custody battle follows and it’s here the film reaches a new level of intensity and feeling. The performances are all so good you are invested in the fate of each of them and pull for Mary and Frank to stay together.
McKenna Grace and Chris Evans are the heart of the movie and their relationship on screen is a delight. They feel like a real family and it’s a real treat to have Chris Evans get to show he is so much more than the star of big budget action films. He’s a talented actor who always seems down to earth in any interviews and seems like the kind of guy you could grab a beer with. It’s that quality which allows him to easily slip into the role of Frank and deliver a nuanced, classy performance.
His young co-star is simply amazing and also deserving of special mention. She’s sweet, sassy, smart and plays her part to perfection. It’s been a good year for uncovering fresh young talent after the emergence of Dafne Keen in Logan and Baby Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2!
As the film reaches its climax you’ll be on the edge of your seat waiting to see what happens to Mary and Frank as you root for them to win the right to lead the life they want and that’s testament to how well this movie is put together.
Gifted won’t be around in cinemas for long but when it hits streaming services or movie channels on TV I would encourage anyone to take the time to sit back, relax and enjoy a great film with brilliant performances that won’t disappoint. Top marks to all involved!