Frank Adler (Chris Evans, Captain America) is a single man raising his niece Mary (McKenna Grace) after the death of her mother. His plans to give Mary a normal life are thrown into disarray however when after her first day at school it becomes clear that she is a Maths prodigy. The news makes its way to Frank’s mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan, About Time), who previously had had no contact with Mary, and soon Frank is in the middle of a custody battle with his mother whose plans for her granddaughter threaten to separate Frank and Mary. Octavia Spencer (The Help, Hidden Figures) is Frank’s landlady and friend who has a very close bond with Mary and along with Mary’s teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate, Girls) they help Frank in his fight to keep Mary.
I don’t know if we saw a special showing of this film but there were no adverts or trailers, we had literally just sat down when the film began, throwing us straight into the lives of Frank and Mary and their special bond. Gifted takes its time to tell us the background of the pair, leaving a bit of mystery as details are slowly revealed. The two main characters clearly have a deep connection and this is shown throughout the film. Frank is obviously torn between fighting to give Mary a normal childhood and letting his mother enhance Mary’s mathematical abilities. There are some very powerful scenes between the two throughout and the whole film is beautifully acted.
McKenna Grace gives an amazing performance considering she’s only 11. She is able to bring a range of emotions and takes the audience on a journey with her character. One scene between Frank and Mary will have you fighting back the tears! Chris Evans, known more for action films, takes a different role entirely here. His portrayal of Frank is perfect, the love he has for Mary is clear but the fact that he doesn’t really know whether he’s doing the right thing by Mary is evident too. He is completely torn and Chris acts this beautifully. The bond between Chris and McKenna is strong throughout and all the scenes they have together are brilliant. You can really believe the relationship between the two of them.
Octavia Spencer, though only a relatively small role, is perfect as always. She is Frank’s right-hand woman, taking Mary every Friday night so he can still have a bit of his own life. It’s clear from the start that Roberta and Mary also have a very close bond but as the court case goes on Roberta points out her feelings have no say in what happens to Mary, no matter how much she loves the child. Along with Mary’s teacher Bonnie they support Frank in his fight but ultimately there is nothing they can do. Jenny Slate is great as Bonnie, she spots Mary’s gift and encourages her in class and along the way she also starts to get close to Frank.
Evelyn is the baddie in the film, having never shown an interest in her granddaughter’s life she suddenly shows up and demands custody when Mary’s talents are revealed. The court case throws up all sorts of secrets between mother and son as the truth is slowly revealed. Lindsay Duncan gives a very good performance, it’s easy to not like her when put against the obvious bond between Frank and Mary, but towards the end of the film we fully start to understand why she is so desperate to oversee Mary’s upbringing and start to see her in a new light. The relationship between mother and son is strained and Chris and Lindsay really portray this through their scenes together.
Overall Gifted is a beautiful film. The story is powerful and takes you on an emotional journey. Chris Evans gives a brilliant performance but young McKenna is the star of the film. I can guarantee you will cry at least once, definitely a must-see and I’m surprised it hasn’t had more promotion over here!