It’s not often that one goes into a movie expecting yet another piece of Hollywood schmaltz, only to be completely taken aback by its simple yet hugely effective premise. In Gifted, director Marc Webb (The Amazing Spider-Man 2) offers a beautifully crafted story, which while not being completely without fault, manages to be charming and thoroughly engaging. Written by Tom Flynn and staring Chris Evans, Gifted could easily be missed in this summer of big blockbusters, but if you’re looking for something less noisy and more heartfelt, then look no further.

Mary Adler (Mckenna Grace) is a bright, funny and astute eight year old living in a small Florida town with her uncle Frank (Chris Evans). When Frank finds he is no longer able to home-school the child himself, he is forced to finally send her to school with kids her own age. Things don’t go quite to plan when on her first day at school Mary is immediately identified by her teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate) as a gifted child. Things are further complicated when Frank’s own mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan), the child’s maternal grandmother, decides to fight him for the custody of a child she feels should be getting a much better education. Add to that a dark secret relating to Mary’s own mother and a promise made by Frank to his now deceased sister, and you are left with a deeply convoluted narrative which is far less jarring than you might expect.

GiftedMcKenna Grace puts on an impressive turn as a precocious yet deeply sympathetic eight year old, while Evans is genuinely likeable in a role that doesn’t seem to demand much from him. The screenplay doesn’t always seem to hit the right note, and can feel a little too overdramatic in places, but this in no way takes from its deeply compelling story. With complicated characters you feel the need to root for, and others that feel two-dimensional, Gifted can sometimes feel a little clichéd and trope ridden, but this in no way makes it any less enjoyable.

Gifted’s simplistic approach to storytelling will not be to everyone’s liking, but few will find themselves bored or keeping their eye on the time. While the love story subplot between Frank and teacher Bonnie is a welcome distraction from the main crux of the story, you might be left wanting more from that particular strand, not least due to the genuinely likeable Jenny Slate, who puts in a wonderfully nuanced and natural performance. Nonetheless, Gifted remains a warm and heartfelt story that will be perfect for a quiet afternoon at the pictures – it’s just one that doesn’t require much thought, that’s all. 

Gifted is released on June 16th

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Gifted
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Linda Marric is a senior film critic and the newly appointed Reviews Editor for HeyUGuys. She has written extensively about film and TV over the last decade. After graduating with a degree in Film Studies from King's College London, she has worked in post-production on a number of film projects and other film related roles. She has a huge passion for intelligent Scifi movies and is never put off by the prospect of a romantic comedy. Favourite movie: Brazil.