Gifted

It is the first day of school in year one for Mary Adler (Mckenna Grace) and she is not too excited about it. Her apprehension is not due to fear of school, but knowing that she will not be challenged. Her uncle Frank (Chris Evans) knows that his niece is gifted in mathematics, but he desires that she will lead the normal life of a child. Even with the objections of his neighbour and family friend, Roberta (Octavia Spencer), who sees this choice leading to more problems than solutions for the little girl, Mary heads to school. The repercussions come within moments of her arrival at school, when her teacher realises that she has a prodigy in her class. Miss Stevenson (Jenny Slate) strives to help her newest student into a programme that will challenge her to grow her natural skills.

The inquiries by the school into Mary’s background lead to the very thing that Frank was hoping would not happen. He had been given guardianship of his niece from his sister, who was a mathematical genius and had died tragically. Frank’s goal was to keep the seven-year-old out away from the controlling influences of his mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan), which he blames for the ill-fated life and untimely death of his sibling. With all of the intentions for the brilliant little girl being made evident, the fight for her future begins. 

After all of the big budget spectacles of superhero adventures and franchises, it is a joy to see Chris Evans in a low-budget family drama. Partnered with the talents of Octavia Spencer and Lindsey Duncan, he proves that he can work with an ensemble that does not need spandex suits and superpowers to save the world. Teaming up with director Marc Webb (The Amazing Spider-man) who is no stranger to comic book storylines, this collection of talent delivers a simple and winsome story to cinemas. 

With whispers of Good Will Hunting and Hidden Figures, the fascinating world of mathematics provides a dramatic avenue  for this production to travel. The point of difference from the celebrated films about maths is that this involves the future, care and custody of a young girl. McKenna Grace proves that she has the ability to carry the film alongside her adult co-stars and delivers a convincing, intelligent and emotional performance. The brilliance in her acting is that she manages to to tap into the emotion of the situation, depiste the evident brilliance of her character in a field that can be described us unemotional. 

The script could be labelled as predictable, but this thematic lightness does not take away from the appeal. The courtroom dramas and depictions of family have been seen before, but the subtle differences within the relationships of Gifted provide a treasure worth finding. Marc Webb has managed to show audiences that intellectual genius can be as much a burden in people’s lives, as it can be a gift. Connecting the real struggle that parents and families encounter at different levels throughout child-rearing, he provides a fresh spin on a familiar plight for parents. Webb’s narrative simplicity provides a dramatic and heartfelt journey that is accessible and entertaining and that should be sought out by audiences.  

REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film? 

Family: This is a word that can provide tears and smiles at the same time. Gifted provides a glimpse into the great love and pain that come at the hands of family. Proving that the both the great joy and color can come through the messiness of life. 

 When God said ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ (Genesis 1:22), his intention was for his creation to multiply and have families. 

Not too long after this instruction from the maker of heaven, things went exceptionally wrong and even families were effected by the original sin. Yet, even though things in this world are tainted, it does not devalue God’s intention. 

Family is of high value in the eyes of God. It can be considered a bittersweet gift, but it is a gift none the less.  Regardless of your personal reality with family, have you taken the time to show your parents, children and extended family the appreciation for the blessing that they are to you? 

1. What is sacrificial love? (John 15:13, Ephesians 5:25)

2. What is the value of family? (John 15:12-17, Ephesians 5: 21)

3. How should we respond to difficulties in life? (Romans 5:3-5, 1 Peter 5:10)

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Russell Matthews

Russell loves film and enjoys engaging in discussions about the latest cinema offerings and then connecting this with the Gospel. He has worked for City Bible Forum for over 10 years, is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and Entertainment Fuse and has a blog called Russelling Reviews. He moderates events for Reel Dialogue which connect the film industry with the general public.