Frank Adler (Evans) is trying to give his niece, Mary(Grace), a normal childhood; the only thing is that Mary isn’t normal. Mary is a spirited young girl who happens to be a child prodigy, making raising her and educating her a hard task for Frank, who also wants to live his life. Frank’s plans get thrown out the window when Mary’s abilities attract the attention of Frank’s mother, Mary’s Grandmother Evelyn (Duncan), who wants to encourage the prodigy in Mary. With the two opposing beliefs un-yielding, it leads to a custody battle with Frank and Evelyn believing they know what’s best for Mary. Directed by Marc Webb, Gifted stars Chris Evans, McKenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan, Jenny Slate, Octavia Spencer, Glenn Plummer, Julie Ann Emery, and Joe Chrest
This story might sound familiar, with aspects of the custody battle and child prodigies being seen in plenty of films but somehow Gifted feels fresh. The dynamic between Frank and Mary is brilliant in the way it feel intimate and small, yet emotionally powerful. The courtroom scenes present a surprising insight into the life of Frank and his family, exploring the life of a gifted child whilst still offering some shocking twist not uncommon in a courtroom drama. Behind all the drama there is heart and charm, mostly coming from McKenna Grace and the way she innocently interacts with the other characters. She brings so much feeling to so many scenes it was hard not to sit there and smile at her.
Gifted is a smaller story that focuses solely on the characters, which is a positive due to how incredible the cast is. McKenna Grace is 100% the show stealer, with her quick-witted one-liners, her child like innocence and her lack of social skills combine to make an adorable and humorous character. For such a young actress she had immense talent that makes the movie as charming as it is. It is great to see Chris Evans take on other roles beside Captain America, where he can showcase some of the talent he has in a more dramatic and light-hearted setting. He does have some deep emotional moments throughout Gifted, but he also has a lot of fun with the character of Frank, and with his back and forth with Grace, Evans delivers a fantastic performance. If you are a fan of Parks and Recreation you might struggle early in the film with Jenny Slate playing a primary school teacher but this is a full transformation to her character in Parks and Rec, who was just the worst. She definitely had depth in her ability as an actress and had a fantastic rapport with Evans. The two of them were able to build a believable relationship, which wasn’t hard to believe given the two developed into a relationship during the filming.
In his first film since The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Marc Webb appears to be washing that stick off by taking some different filmmaking styles on a simple story. The film takes an interesting stance by painting the story as Frank and Mary against the world, and portrays Evelyn as the villain of the movie. She has her own motives for her actions but Webb decides to not make the audience empathise with her, she has her reasons but they aren’t in Mary or the audience interests. This is a fascinating story telling technique to not try and fully humanise Evelyn. The film also maintains a somewhat light-hearted feel to it, never turning into a drama but also not a full on comedy. It is because of this I refer to the film as a ‘nice’ film. There is nothing wrong with watching a film that leaves a nice feeling inside of you.
Sometimes you just want to sit down and watch a movie that will make you feel good, a ‘nice’ movie and that is exactly what Gifted is. You will laugh and you will cry at this charming and easy watching film. In fact you will most likely sit there and smile until it is time to get emotional, until the smile come back on your face. It is a simple film that works and will leave you with a good feeling.
See it if you enjoy charming smaller films, that can have an emotional impact on you.
Gifted scored an 8/10
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