Released in theaters
- Apr, 2017
- 64% – Rotten Tomatoes Critics
- 86% – Rotten Tomatoes Movie Goers
- 70% – Roger Koehler
- Chris Evans
- Octavia Spencer
- McKenna Grace
- Lindsay Duncan
- Jenny Slate
- Mark Webb
Official Movie Trailer
Rotten Tomatoes Reviews
Now another story about a precocious young child might not immediately come to mind as something that is a must-see. However, I found this movie to be very well done. It tackles the dilemma of how to raise a gifted young child prodigy while providing her the opportunity to use her gifts at a very young age, but while also not denying her the opportunity to just be a child as well.
The story involves a single man, Frank Adler (Chris Evans), trying to raise the 7-year old daughter, Mary (McKenna Grace) of his sister, a brilliant mathematician who committed suicide at the age of 27. His sister specifically asked that Frank give her daughter a normal upbringing – one that she herself had not been allowed to have, thanks to her overbearing mother – a brilliant, but unrealized mathematician in her own right.
When Mary goes to regular school for the first time (albeit at the age of 7, which is one of numerous non-sequiters that many critics hold against this film), her precociousness is apparent to her teachers and causes problems in her ability to relate to her other classmates. Given Frank’s directive by his sister, he is torn between his desire for Mary to have a normal childhood and his realization of the phenomenal gifts that Mary has.
Frank’s estranged mother, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan), reappears after not having participated in her granddaughter’s life since the death of her mother. She is aware of Mary’s mathematical gifts and is hell-bent on apparently making the same mistakes with Mary that she did with her own daughter. The story continues with an ongoing custody battle, and its eventual resolution, between Frank and Evelyn.
As noted, there are certainly holes in the logic and flow of this movie. Why Frank would leave his job as a university assistant professor in psychology at a Boston university and move to Florida is somewhat understandable in his need to get Mary away from her grandmother. But why he chose to become a boat mechanic without health insurance while raising a young child, as opposed to reapplying for a professorship at a Florida university – well, that is not explained.
There are also some deliberately, and unabashedly tear-jerking scenes that frankly worked, but nonetheless are demonstrably manipulative. (Geez, if that sounds like something a snooty critic would write, I apologize.)
The bottom line for me, and I believe for my wife as well, is that the movie is very well acted, and that the leads are extremely likable, with the exception of Evelyn of course. But even that speaks to how well Lindsay Duncan played that part. Frank’s relationship with Mary is very loving. Chris Evans’ performance as Frank is understated but well done. McKenna Grace is a wonderful young actress who at the age of just 10 has numerous film and TV credits already. I am amazed that a child that young has the ability to perform at that level. She is herself a prodigy as is the character she plays. One can only hope that her fate does not mirror that of too many child stars.
We had a choice to make between seeing this movie or seeing Their Finest. We initially decided to see Their Finest based in part on the fact that Their Finest had higher Rotten Tomatoes professional critic ratings – 86% to 64%. While we were not at all disappointed in Their Finest, for which I will also be writing a review, in the future I will also pay more attention to the Movie Goer ratings on Rotten Tomatoes as well. Had I checked, I would have noted that Gifted received 86% from Movie Goers while Their Finest received 81%.
About the stars …
Chris Evans. He is probably best known for his breakout role of Johnny Storm in The Fantastic Four, and his follow-up super hero roles as Captain America .
Octavia Spencer. She has received Best Supporting Actress nominations for her roles in 2011’s The Help, and in 2017’s Hidden Figures.
Lindsay Duncan. This was the first I had remembered seeing this actress in a film, and for good reason. She is an accomplished Scottish actress but has preferred to act in stage plays and novel adaptations in Great Britain.
McKenna Grace. Although only 10 years old in reality, and playing a 7 year old in this movie, since 2014, McKenna already has seven feature film credits and four television credits on her resume.
Jenny Slate. I had no recollection of her prior to this movie. I did find out that she had a very short-lived tenure on Saturday Night Live in 2009 until she was fired after using a profanity on air.