“Gifted” is one of those rare movies that has real people in it dealing with complicated things without any of them being turned into devils of saints.
The story hinges on the struggle between Mary’s uncle and her grandmother over how Mary, a math prodigy, should be raised. Mary’s mother is dead. The circumstances of her death add ground glass into the mix of emotions in this conflict.
I saw the movie, in English, in Switzerland where it had been retitled “Mary for the French-speaking audience. Mary is the main character and Mckenna Grace’s wonderful performance, which lacks any trace of Disney cuteness but instead shows a real child with strong emotions and a staggering intellect, makes the movie irresistible.
I prefer the English title “Gifted” as it has more meanings. The whole family in the film are gifted. The uncle, played with strength and sensitivity by Chris Evans, is very bright but is gifted with an ability to focus his love on Mary. The grandmother, played with nuanced strength and vulnerability by Lindsay Duncan is gifted with great intelligence and drive but has been fractured by her relationship with her daughter. Even so, what everyone has been “gifted” with here is the opportunity to live better lives by loving Mary enough to let her be herself.
All of the performances in the movie are strong, even that of the one-eyed cat. I’m a long time admirer of Lindsay Duncan but I came away with a renewed appreciation for Chris Evans and the awareness of two rising talents, Jenny Slate, who was captivating as Mary’s teacher, and Mckenna Grace who has an astonishing range and who I expect to see a great deal more of. Octavia Spencer was a strong presence in every scene she was in. I especially love the scene where she and Mary sing along together.
“Gifted” is the kind of movie I’d like Hollywood to make more of: subtle script, beautiful camerawork and lighting, excellent performances and all accomplished without the need for CGI. It seems it’s also the kind of movie that makes good sense economically. “Gifted” cost $7,000,000 to make, took $446,380 in the US in it opening weekend and had made $24,801,212 after two weeks.
I’ve included the trailer below, even though I think it tells too much of the story. Go see the movie. Take a friend to share it with. Pick someone you don’t mind seeing you cry.