Gifted (2017)


  • Directed by Marc Webb
  • Starring Chris Evans, McKenna Grace, and Lindsay Duncan
  • Written by Tom Flynn
  • Drama
  • Rated PG-13
  • 101 mins
  • 21 April 2017


A man named Frank has been raising his niece Mary on his own without event until he sends Mary to school and they discover her gift for mathematics. After his mother Evelyn discovers that Mary has the same gifts as her mother did, she and Frank get into a custody battle where the choice is between embracing potential genius or growing as a normal child.

How’s the Story?

I really enjoy this story! I like the direction this story takes. If you enjoy sentimental films about family, this film is for you! I loved the father/daughter dynamic going on, and it really touched me.

On a deeper level, I enjoy how the basis of the story is family and how a father (uncle, but father in every way that counts) wants his child to grow up after seeing what the kind of gift she has could destroy her the way it did his mother. I’m familiar with and interested in the way that gifted children often end up being the most destructive adults because they’re not allowed to grow as a person the way that normal kids are. Yes, there may be some aspect of genius that inherently hinders the psycho-social brain growth, but often the issue with gifted children is that they aren’t treated like children as they grow and therefore they are unable to adapt to adulthood well. I love that the way this story goes is between family members who either value the intelligence more or the personality more in this little girl. Most of all, I love how this story doesn’t make the grandmother evil, just misguided.

There are parts of the plot that are a little ‘eh’ but overall, it’s a good story.

How’s the Acting?

The acting is phenomenal. Chris Evans delivers a real ‘Chris Evans’ performance, and McKenna Grace as this little girl is just mindbogglingly good! The other performances are all pretty good, but those two really steal the show.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

Here’s where this movie starts to lose some points with me. It’s still good, but there’s more potential in the writing and direction than there is payoff. I think where this story suffers is too many characters. There was no need for so much involvement from Bonnie, Mary’s teacher, and there was REALLY no need for the semi-romance between her and Frank. It was cute, sure, but it wasn’t needed.

Also, Roberta was underutilized. I feel like if they had made Bonnie less of a character and put Robert more into the story, it could have been way better of a film. Roberta starts out as someone important and then she becomes more of a convenient character and then at the end they try to make her importance relevant again without earning it. Roberta is written to love Mary like an aunt or godmother, and yet the only time that’s important to the story is in a few random scenes, and then they swap the focus to Bonnie more in that role, and then at the end Bonnie just kind of goes away and Roberta comes back for the climax. The writing suffers from that because the story feels disjointed from the overabundance of characters.

That said, the direction overall is pretty okay and the same goes for the writing apart from that character issue. In particular there’s one scene I love both for writing and direction in the middle of the film that kind of feels like a darling that wasn’t killed, but I’m happy that it wasn’t, and that is the scene where Frank and Mary are on a sand bar and the scene is all in silhouette of them standing in the setting sun and her hanging and climbing all over Frank and asking him if there’s a god. I like how he talks about faith and belief and how he doesn’t know and he refuses to tell her what he thinks, and when she asks why, he says something along the lines of not wanting to influence her opinion and beliefs with his, because that’s for her to find out.

I feel like this is a very great developmental moment, because it really nails home that Frank’s main concern is allowing Mary to be a person first instead of a genius, and the way it’s written and the way it’s directed really just stands out to me. I love that scene even if it probably should’ve been a killed darling.

How’s the Cinematography?

I enjoyed the cinematography of this film, but there’s nothing that really stands out to me apart from all the times I kept going, “Oh, I know where that is!” because this movie, though set in Florida, was filmed in Savannah, Georgia. If you aren’t aware, the film industry in my dear state has now reached I believe third in North America for number of projects being filmed there, only behind California and Vancouver, and a popular destination for movies to be filmed in recent years is Tybee Island and Savannah. Being that Savannah is my favorite place in the world and Tybee Island is a day-trip-to-the-beach destination for my family, this movie’s visual looks are something I’m distracted from because every shot that isn’t inside a building I’m going, ‘Oh, I know where that street is, that’s right across from that restaurant I like’ or something.

Overall, I would say the cinematography is pretty standard but enjoyable, however the more ‘showy’ visuals are something I’m distracted from fully appreciating because I’m just looking at it in a ‘I know that place!’ way.

Is It Worth Watching?

Gifted is a film I would recommend for the person who enjoy sentimental films about family and the many forms it can take. I’m a sappy person who loves movies like this, so I loved it, but I can see how the cinephile might absolutely hate it. It’s not in any way perfect, it’s very emotional, it pays far more attention to the family and feelings than it does the genius child aspect, and if you are looking for an Oscar movie, this probably isn’t the film for you.

That said, if you are the type of person who likes solid films with that ‘indie film’ vibe, sappy stories, Chris Evans, hilarious sassy children characters, and predictably happy endings, you’ll enjoy this movie as much as I did! I cried three times watching this movie and I loved it! The acting is great, the story is solid enough, the ‘bad guy’ isn’t a pure-villain, the conflict makes sense, and it’ll tug at your heart-strings, so all in all, it’s a good ‘Sunday afternoon’ type of movie (which is when I saw it, so it was fitting!).

Also there’s a one-eyed cat, how can you not love a movie with an adorable one-eyed cat???

My Rating: 7/10

About J. Chelsea Williford

Movie addict, reader, writer, pop culture lover.
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