I love movies about gifted people and their relationships. Rather its Searching for Bobby Fisher, Good Will Hunting, Rain Man, or the like, these movies give me a glimpse into a foreign life. I don’t watch these movies with some strange longing, more of a fascination with a subject wrought with such potential. And serving up this potential was my latest outing to the movies to see Gifted. The opening scene really sets the stage for the delight you are about to experience for the next 90 minutes as young Mary (played by Mckenna Grace) shows disgust over her morning routine on her first day of school. Her ability to draw you into her emotions and experience what she is feeling is really something to enjoy from such a young actress. As the movie unfolds, we see the struggle Mary’s uncle Frank (played by Chris Evans) faces in attempting to raise a gifted child and give her some semblance of a normal childhood.
This struggle is further complicated when his mom steps in and tries to take control and mold Mary into the genius she sees. It is not a typical relationship between mother, son and granddaughter and rightly so as you learn the history of the family and what has led to Frank’s custody of young Mary. There will be plenty of tears pulled as Frank navigates the unknown future an attempt to hold true to a promise not to lose Mary. Why do we as parents feel comfortable making promises to our children that are out of our control? Like the kid who wakes up scared of the predator lurking outside, we promise that we would never let anyone hurt our child, and while these promises offer safety and security, they are ultimately out of control. And the stage is set for the crescendo, will Frank be able to honor his promise?
While there are many emotional heart strings to be pulled, Gifted is filled with joy and laughter as well. Much of this comes from their eccentric neighbor Roberta played by Octavia Spencer. The karaoke scene alone is worth its weight to carry you through some of the low points. The movie does not shy away from some of the deeper questions either. One particular poignant scene is set when Frank drags Mary away from her math books to get her outside and silhouetted against a fiery sunset, Mary asks Frank if he believes in God. “I don’t know” is Franks response. “What about Jesus?” “I love that guy, be like him.” “Do you believe he is God?” “I have an opinion but I want you to form your own opinion.” “What about our neighbor, she believes Jesus.” “Faith is believing in what you can’t prove is true, there is no way to prove this. She is no different than the atheist except she loves you.”
Mary pushes Frank for his opinion on spiritual matters and he challenges her on if she is concerned about eternity? She responds that she is so Frank replies, “Don’t worry, one way or another we all end up together in the end.” Sadly, that is not what Jesus taught. So, while Frank may espouse living a life like Jesus, he doesn’t tend to support his teachings where he taught he was God nor his teachings that the only way we end up together in heaven is by trusting he is the way, the truth and the life. It’s an interesting follow on point, when Frank is working on a boat on a particularly poorly designed part and asks “why would you design something you know is going to fail?”, begging us to consider the creator/creation implications.
6 out of 7 – watching young Mckenna Grace use her gifts to bring Mary Adler such depth is a treat worth experiencing. A few harsh words, a single suggestive scene and thematic elements earn this movie a PG-13 but it is a very tame rating and offers lots of opportunity for good dialog with children who are mature enough to enjoy.