From the onset we see a man named Frank Adler (Chris Evans) who works as an independent contractor repairing boats in a coastal town in South Florida. After work he goes homes both as a single unattached man and as a doting loving uncle to his young niece named Mary. Frank has custody of Mary because her mother suddenly tragically died. But in the early moments of you the viewer becoming more familiar with this unorthodox family arrangement, we discover that young Mary (Mckenna Grace) is no ordinary adolescent. In fact she is a mathematical prodigy who is high spirited and very mature for her age.
Frank's wants Mary to have a normal life, so after home schooling her for the first few years he decides to send her to a public school to meet other children her own age to develop more social skills with her peers than the adults Mary insists she has more in common with. But soon we see Frank’s plans are foiled when the seven-year-old's mathematical abilities come to the attention of Frank's formidable mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) whose plans for her granddaughter threaten to separate Frank and Mary by taking her back to Boston to cultivate her skills at more prestigious schools as she did for Mary’s Mother when she was a child.
REVIEW: I went into this film thinking, “OK” this story line will probably take me down that path filled with overly sweet and recycled weepy moments that I would probably see coming a mile away. BOY WAS I WRONG. While prone to a few overly theatric dramatic scenes, “GIFTED” as both a drama and as a light comedy is very charming, very thoughtful and very mature. But above all GIFTED is just a really feel good film with a huge heart that makes all the right moves.
When on the screen together Chris Evans and Grace have sensational magical chemistry together. I bought it from the very get go that this was a real family relationship working things out as they go. Not ever being sure that they are doing the right thing or saying the right thing to each other, but above all they knew they loved each other and you see it and you feel it in every single frame of this 1:45 minute film.
With solid supporting performances by Oscar Winner Octavia Spencer as the resident landlord and motherly friend to Frank and Mary, as well as Jenney Slate as Mary’s earnest and well intentioned teacher, together they bring to life a film that could have been easily riddled with clichés and schmaltzy sentimentality. But the reason I think they all worked so well together was largely attributed to Tom Flynn’s screenplay which in every spoken word fully realizes who these people are in a thoughtful and sincere way without any cheap over the top scornful vitriol being directed towards one another. This is a well rounded story that will have a tug on your emotions with authentic wit and drama.
Ultimately, GIFTED, never tries to be anything but a simple straightforward film about family and it works very well at staying in its lane of heartfelt truths and decency. This is no corny deliberate minded tearjerker, but something tells me if you see it a tear or two may come anyway. But whether a tear comes or not if you see this film you will probably realize as I did early on in the movie that I cared about these two people.
FINALLY, there is an amazing short scene 30 minutes into the movie where Frank takes Mary to the beach just to spend some casual time with her. The scene is shot in silhouette with the sun setting. That scene and the dialog alone was worth the price of admission for me, because it was a reflective reminder for me of those many tender small moments we all hold dear from our past. Just sitting and talking about nothing special with the people we love.
GIFTED may not the best movie I will eventually see this year, but for me it sure felt like it could be one my favorites for 2017.