Mary Adler (Mckenna Grace) is a child prodigy. Her life is happy but modest: she’s being raised by doting uncle Frank (Chris Evans) and next-door neighbour Roberta (Octavia Spencer). Her best friend is a one-eyed cat called Fred.
Frank (Evans) has been Mary's surrogate father for seven years, ever since his mathematician sister, Diane, took her own life and left a baby and an unsolved maths equation behind. Frank promised his sister that he'd give Mary a normal childhood, free from the expectations of their mother, Evelyn, who drove Diane to academic extremes in the name of ‘cultivating her talents’.
The story begins as Frank enrols seven-year-old Mary in the local state school. Mary is light years ahead of her peers intellectually, and this quickly becomes evident to everyone involved. Frank is placed under immediate pressure from teachers and other concerned staff members to nurture this talent in a more specialist education programme.
It's not long until estranged grandmother Evelyn - mathematician and force of nature - turns up. She arrives in Florida hellbent on making sure Mary realises her ‘potential’. Evelyn isn't going back to her Bostonian mansion without Mary, and if Frank isn't going to hand her over willingly, Evelyn is going to drag him through a custody battle.
Evelyn takes the stand for the tiger moms of the 21st century: children need to be pushed, pruned, and streamed. Actress Lindsay Duncan plays the matriarchal role with poise and fragility, and it’s hard not to root for the haunted ice queen seeking redemption for her daughter's suicide through her grand-daughter.
Evelyn thinks Mary’s sole focus should be learning as much math as humanly possible. Frank just wants Mary to be happy, something he thinks is achievable through a standard childhood, free from text books and tutoring regimes. Chris Evans’s performance of Frank shows a man too flawed to fall into the 'Fun Dad' trope, and the scenes between him and Mckenna Grace are laced with genuine emotion as they navigate the custody battle.
Is this movie riddled with cliches? Yes. Can you sometimes sense the presence of director Marc Webb, like a puppet master controlling your heartstrings from the wings? Also yes, but Gifted shows a future where it's plausible and possible for girls to be the leading minds in mathematics - even at the tender age of seven.
|What||Gifted, film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
16 Jun 17 – 16 May 19, Times Vary
|Price||£edtermined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more information|