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.
McKenna 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