A philosopher-gone-mechanic and a young maths genius are at the centre of the story with pleasing, charming performances, let down by the predictability of the story.
Frank and Mary are truly squad goals: the uncle tries his hardest to teach his niece about the world, and the little genius often resorts to snarky comments when her older companion does something that doesn’t agree with her way of thinking. He’s been homeschooling her for a while, but believing that she needs to be with other kids to avoid her mother’s tragedy, he sends her to an ordinary school. However, when the girl’s brilliance in mathematics starts to show, other people desperately want to decide what’s best for her.
Marc Webb, the man behind 500 Days of Summer and Spiderman films, a co-creator of Simon and Garfunkel Universe, brings the audiences a really sweet film about a bond between a child and her guardian with viewpoints that almost make him lose her. With the heartfelt story and omnipresent humour that his fans know from the first of the mentioned flicks, he’s likely to conquer the hearts of many – but he’ll also easily set himself up for the accusations of being completely sugary.
And it’s totally understandable: although he does chime into the young genius theme brought to life in Good Will Hunting or x+y, he still leaves an unfilled gap in what he could possibly do with the film to make his mark on the popular trope. It’s a lovely, heart-warming execution that will appeal to the fans of similar stories but might be a bit too predictable in general. The movie does care about the philosophical side of itself, though. If you’re looking for a relationship portrayal that’s driven by the cause-effect interaction chain pushed ahead by massive emotional tension, you’re likely to find it thanks to the great effort of the cast.
Even if your heart tells you that the transformation isn’t actually that big, Captain America’s Chris Evans hides behind his ordinary hero pretty well. He’s working with a nicely drawn portrait of the man, philosophy professor now repairing boats in his little town, who wants to protect his niece at all costs, he also wants to have his own life and feels kind of guilty about not being able to strike the right balance, especially after the accusations of neglect that come from the different sides. Mckenna Grace also shows that she’s no novice to a big screen: she brings us a clever girl who’s not afraid to speak up to the head teacher, but also incredibly sensitive. Together, they develop an excellent relationship, taking turns at the roles of a grown-up and a child, which is guaranteed to be a tearjerker at least a couple of times.
The supporting cast brings us a great, warm performance from Jenny Slate. Her Bonnie goes through all the right stages of being intrigued to feel the need to understand Mary’s situation, creating an interesting character. Along with Octavia Spencer, they’ve got the welcome comedy chops which make the film lighter and save it from melodramatic tension at times. Lindsay Duncan as Evelyn has a cold antagonist to play, but she also overcomes the hurdles left behind by the subtle dents in the script. By making us empathise with her character, who’s at the end of the day a suffering mother, she manages to become even more questionable towards the end.
Although Gifted will have a hard time proclaiming that it’s anything new and it definitely struggles with soapy moments, it reimburses the audience with engaging performances that add the depth and humanity to the story. A motif used so often must bring something really innovative and steer away from predictable tricks, but the movie doesn’t care much about ground-breaking approaches to conventions; it makes for a feel-good Sunday afternoon watch instead.
Gifted is released in the UK on the 16th of June.