On the surface, Gifted seems like a deep, complicated film boasting a moral compass that swings all over the place, intent on keeping us guessing until the final moments. Much like an equation, once you come to the solution its very easy to see beyond the initial complexity presented and its here you wonder why you ever second guessed the film’s plot.
At its heart, Gifted is about a custody battle gone ugly for seven year old math genius Mary (McKenna Grace). Currently living with guardian Frank Adler (Chris Evans) who plans to give Mary a normal life; the last dying wish of her mother. Her grandmother on the other hand, believes her gift should be presented to the world and should not be wasted and its here where the film’s central conflict gravitates. Frustratingly, there are some half finished sub plots that are picked up and dropped that do bring the story down but to be honest, they’re easy to overlook with the excellent acting.
Its worth noting here too that the chemistry between Chris and McKenna is clear to see, as the two put in really good performances from start to finish. Despite being a drama with some, albeit manipulated, tear jerking moments, there’s a natural flow to some of the comedy the two have and it really feels like a genuine father/daughter relationship. Its the endearing performance from these two actually that ultimately drives the film forward and makes it stand out from others in the same genre.
There’s some pretty creative design choices too and whether deliberate or not, were a nice touch to help elevate the film. The camera shakes sporadically when Chris gets into a fight or confronts someone and as the film wears on, the camera progressively tracks a bigger distance between Mary and Frank, echoing the position that Frank is losing the girl he raised and is conflicted about what’s best for Mary.
Despite its best intention to make the film seem original, you can’t help but feel that you’ve seen this plot before and it plays out with barely a deviation in the plot seen in films like this. At its centre is a simple question, what is really best for Mary? Instead of answering “let’s ask Mary”, the film toys with the idea that her gift puts her above and beyond the law and should be treated differently for fear of losing her extraordinary talent to the world. We feel inclined to agree as we see how effortlessly this girl manages to solve complicated equations with ease but her social awkwardness puts as at odds, knowing any chance of a normal life could be lost if she explores her gift fully.
Overall, Gifted is a competently made, well done drama that takes a conventional story and just runs with it. Its frustrating that some of the sub plots aren’t fully fleshed out and there are times where the film feels like it manipulates you into some of its more tear-jerking moments. The endearing performance between McKenna and Evans is enough to overshadow the film’s faults though and its here that Gifted really shines and shows its true potential.