Increasingly we’re seeing films that, rather than adding a Hollywood shine to everything, offer us a realistically messy portrayal of life. That’s exactly what’s on show here – and it’s fantastic. There’s a lot to be seen in Gifted that is incredibly reminiscent of Manchester By the Sea, released earlier this year. There’s no black and white here – only shades of grey, and Marc Webb shows us the story from a million different angles, keeping the story ambiguous, unpredictable, and utterly engaging.
Following the custody battle for Mary (McKenna Grace) between her philosophical uncle (Chris Evans) and her pushy grandmother (Lindsay Duncan), Gifted is a sweet and incredibly human portrayal of everyday trials and tribulations. Arguably uneventful, this gem of a film trips along, accompanied by an ongoing stream of witty repartee between all characters. Whilst there are many things that can be applauded about this film, the scripting is undoubtedly one of them.
But aside from anything else, who knew that Captain America could so tenderly portray the emotions of fatherly love, loss and complete vulnerability? Jenny Slate is also a revelation, lightening up the heavy subject matter with her natural wittiness and inherent likeability. But it’s the relationship between Evans and Grace that’s the real flagship here – for one so young, McKenna Grace remarkably manages to pull off the performance of a precocious and somewhat smart-ass kid, whilst still retaining charm.
Arguably there are some pitfalls along the way that need to be mentioned – an incredibly underused Octavia Spencer, some slightly vomit-inducing hospital based moments, and a slow pace that can make Gifted seem over-long in places. But despite losing its way somewhat towards the end, this can be overlooked in light of the incredible scripting, casting, and overarching bravery of its subject matter. Gifted, without a doubt, has to be considered one of the more life-affirming watches of 2017.
CAST: Chris Evans, McKenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan, Jenny Slate, Octavia Spencer
DIRECTOR: Marc Webb
WRITER: Tom Flynn
SYNOPSIS: Frank, a single man raising his child prodigy niece Mary, is drawn into a custody battle with his mother.