Please, go see “Gifted.” It may not be a perfect movie (the court scenes are too long) and unapologetic about manipulating your emotions but the giftedness celebrated in the story is well worth it.
Chris Evans (yes, Captain America himself) plays Frank Adler, a normal guy who fixes boats in a coastal Florida town. Seven years ago his math-genius sister, Diane, committed suicide and Frank has raised her daughter, Mary (McKenna Grace), from infancy. Mary is a math genius like her mom and grandmom before her. But Frank knows that Diane would have wanted Mary raised as a normal kid so he sends her to first grade where Miss Stevenson (Jenny Slate) takes about 30 seconds to realize Mary is gifted.
When Frank turns down a scholarship to a special school for gifted kids, Frank’s mom, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan), shows up on the scene eager to take over guardianship of Mary. The court battle that ensues takes up too much of the film but serves to show that Evelyn’s only interest in Mary is a shot at fame through the solving of one of the ‘millennium problems,’ math’s highest honor. The separation of Frank and Mary that results from the case is heart wrenching.
A constant presence through all Frank and Mary’s trials and tribulations, is Roberta, played with wit and humor by the most excellent Octavia Spencer. Frank’s neighbor and Mary’s best friend, Roberta is there whenever Frank needs her, she supports them at court, and Mary spends every Friday night at Roberta’s house so if Frank has a date, the house is child-free. Add in scenes with a one-eyed cat named Fred and you have story that pulses with humor, some sadness, but mostly love.
I love it when movie titles turn out to be a play on words and hold deeper meaning than a first glance would assume. Yes, Mary is a ‘gifted’ individual. She’s a math whiz. But she’s gifted in other ways, too. She’s gifted with an uncle who loves her like a father and only wants the best for her. When asked what his greatest fear is, Frank answers, “that I’ll ruin Mary’s life.” Frank and Mary are gifts to each other. I love the scene where Frank is silhouetted against the sun and Mary is climbing all over him. Their bond is unmistakable. Roberta is a gift to both Frank and Mary. Evelyn shows what happens to a person who cannot see the many gifts in her life.
We are all ‘gifted’ people. Sometimes, the challenge is in seeing the gift. If we are like Evelyn, our wishes and desires could block our ability to see and experience the gifts all around us. People like Frank know a gift when they see it, they don’t take the gift for granted. These are the people who live in gratitude, fostering mercy and love because they know they don’t always use the gift properly but they are always trying to appreciate it more and more. So, as you maybe have to dab your eyes a time or two as you watch “Gifted” ask yourself two questions: how am I gifted? and how can I be gift for someone else?