Gifted follows the story of Mary (Mckenna Grace) a seven-year-old girl under the care of her uncle Frank (Chris Evans) after the death of her mother six years ago. On her first day of school, which she attends begrudgingly, Mary’s teacher Miss Stevenson (Jenny Slate) learns that Mary is not only a precocious little girl, but a math prodigy. When Mary’s grandmother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) finds out Mary is as brilliant as her daughter, she launches a battle against Frank for custody.
Director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) has brought together a cast with exemplary skill at conveying the nuances of family, whilst ensuring that the chemistry of their interactions is as believable and true to life as possible.
The driving force of this film is Mckenna Grace. She is a fantastic young actress that I have no doubt will be gracing our screens for years to come. She carries herself with a maturity that is beyond her years and matches the skill level the adults around her have brought to their own performances. And she’s equally wonderful in the childlike moments throughout the film.
Chris Evans is such a talented actor, you forget about the architype hero he has become accustomed to playing. He is genuine in his affection for Mary and the warmth and emotion he brings to Frank is refreshing and honest. Evans delivers this beautifully, and with a depth and humility that is spot on.
Their sassy neighbour Roberta (Octavia Spencer) rounds out the family unit with an overwhelming capacity for love and kindness which she exudes in spades. Her relationship with Mary is heart-warming, and it’s obvious to the audience that she is there for not only the girl, but also for her guardian.
Jenny Slate is perfectly cast as well, as the sweet teacher with a genuine interest in the wellbeing of her students. Her role as friend and support system to Frank also works nicely throughout the film.
The script is clever and further highlights that there is no bad guy in this story, but rather a whole lot of people who think they are doing what’s best for one special little girl. I think it is this element that also establishes the humanity of the piece.
The heart to heart moments that litter the film between Evans and Grace are some of the standout moments, where we, as the audience, see these people for what they are, and what they mean to each other. It’s beautiful.
Like a lot of drama movies, the plot is a little predictable. But that does not mean that it’s not a good movie. I think it’s one that will stand out from the crowd and for all the right reasons.
Review by Isabelle Aswad