Every now and then a film like this comes along. An original, easy going nice film that you can just sit and watch as a breath of fresh air from the constant explosions of the blockbuster movies that fill the screens. And it’s a breath that I will happily take, for with the amount of terrible big budget movies arriving recently, it’s great to see a low budget one which is pretty good.
‘Gifted’ follows Chris Evans as Frank, a man who struggles to care and provide for his niece, Mary, played by Mckenna Grace. Mary is a genius and, at 7 years old, is offered fancy new scholarships at smart schools. Frank thinks Mary should try to live a normal life as a normal kid, but soon his mother, Mary’s grandmother (Lindsay Duncan), comes in with other ideas to take Mary away so solve some impossible mathematical equations. Who comes up with these impossible maths problems to solve?! That’s what I want to know. What follows is an emotional custody battle with Mary’s best interests at the heart of it. It can be a little predictable and might not be the most original of stories ever, but it has enough momentum to keep it going and it really packs an emotional punch here and there too.
But none of that would matter if there weren’t some great performances. Evans himself gives a very strong performance. You can really see the emotion in his eyes and his reasoning and relationships are absolutely believable. And what about Grace? Children in films can be a little hit and miss sometimes. Well, Mckenna Grace is definitely a hit! She’s amazing. The way she gets across how bored Mary is by those not as smart as her, how she can show she is a genius in one scene and then a vulnerable child in the next. Her emotional range is very impressive and her chemistry with her uncle is very real. Lindsay Duncan as evil grandmother Evelyn is pretty good too. She may be ‘the bad guy’ of the movie, but she isn’t completely bad. She has some valid reasons as to why Mary should leave Frank and attend more advanced schools, but there is the hint that she is doing it just as much for herself. But she is just as troubled herself and that really shows. Jenna Slate and Octavia Spencer also put in great supporting performances to round out a well acted cast of real seeming characters.
The film is partially built around a lot of moments that will make you gasp and cry and laugh and smile, but then, isn’t that what films are meant to do? But thanks to some great performances, director Marc Webb is able to keep the focus on the characters and their relationships and get the audience invested in the story enough to want Frank and Mary to be happy. It’s an emotional film, but a good one.
JACK’S SCORE: 4/5