Tuesday, 20 June 2017

"...You Promised..." - Gifted - A Review of the 2017 Movie now on DVD and BLU RAY...

"Gifted" - The Film

Sure its clunky and even clich├ęd in places - but having just come from the cinema - "Gifted" is also a rather lovely and moving little film. It's helped in no small part by a great script from Tom Flynn, an uncluttered direction from Marc Webb and most especially - fabulous leads who don't waste a moment of what they know is a sweetheart of a movie.

Chris Evans wisely steps out of that clean-cut Captain America persona, peels back the macho and actually acts. And he's good when he does - hugely likeable - and as some of the film's early jokes involving teachers at his daughter's school and ladies at the local bar indicate - in his ah-shucks teeshirt and disheveled beard - kind of cute eye-candy too.

Evans plays Frank Adler - a freelance boat-repairer living in a modest Florida home - rearing what appears at first to be his very precocious seven-year old daughter Mary. Mary questions everything (Latin in the English language, the validity of breakfast cereals, just who is this git God) and wants the answers right now and as a caveat – they should make sense too. But on the first day at school - Mary's combative nature comes out to a point where she feels 'odd' with the other kids - something she's dreaded – hence her thinly disguised defensiveness. And there's something else. It turns out Mary's a whizz at Maths. In fact not just a human calculator but also a genius - a gifted prodigy who is down with calculus, advanced algebra and differential equations when the other innocents are struggling with three plus three.

It doesn’t go unnoticed. Mary's young and kind-hearted teacher Bonnie Stevenson (a luminous Jenny Slate) is determined to talk to Dad Frank after class - and of course beneath the parent-teacher patter - sparks are ignited. They date quietly (not that Mary doesn’t spot the exit from a bathroom in a towel) and Bonnie learns more. It turns out that Frank is the brother of Mary's mum Diane Adler - who was also a troubled Math’s genius who couldn't take the oddity, the fame, and the pressure to prove a hugely difficult theory most professional Mathematicians wouldn't go near with a barge pole. Physically and emotionally stifled and somehow feeling she is a mentally frazzled and unworthy mum – Diane tragically ended her life at 27 leaving Frank with a niece/daughter to raise (the child’s real Dad has always been absent from her upbringing and cruelly it turns out that's just fine by him).

Enter Lindsay Duncan as Mary's prim-and-proper British Grandmother Evelyn (Diane's Mum) who lives in a wealthy and just-so residence in Massachusetts – the exact physical and mental opposite to loose-living Frank. Determined to raise the 7-year old Mary and unleash her obvious and awesome potential – unfortunately for the close bond between Frank and Mary - the points Evelyn raises don't just make sense but may well be the right thing to do for the child - and deep down Dad-Frank knows this. But Frank just wants Mary to have a normal life (as per mum's instructions) and even have (God forbid) some fun en route. Aunty has other ideas and enlists expensive lawyer types to apply some brutal but what she sees as necessary tough-love. Frank hires the street-savvy but humane Greg Cullen as his attorney - subtly played by a superb Glenn Plummer. Trouble brews, stews and boils over...and on it goes...

This is the best I've ever seen Lindsay Duncan because she's given a script of real meat. Her reasoning and sparring with Evans is both contained and realistic and her intellectual moneyed tantrum in a courtroom would cram more ice into an already stuffed refrigerator. Octavia Spencer adds gravitas too as the ever-present neighbour Roberta who loves Mary and her one-eyed cat Fred with a passion - but can't raise her because in the eyes of the law - the child is not her blood. But the whole movie is stolen by an astonishing performance from 11-year old McKenna Grace who already has a resume that would make your eyes bleed. She's vulnerable, funny, smart-assed, childish, wise (the scenes between her and Evans will reduce most to inner mush) and when it comes to key sequences later in the movie – this young actress reduced the audience I was with to tears and audible sobs. She's Saoirse Ronan good and that's really saying something...

Don't get me wrong. "Gifted" is not a relentless broken-family weepy that taps your emotions like a lump-hammer for the sake of it (even though it does resort to obvious filmic tricks in certain places – especially the choices of powerful and moving songs). But "Gifted" has that rare thing nowadays - a heart - a calmness even - and it reaffirms the power of family and love with a gentle grace that washes over you like a warm breeze and sunlight on water. And for once there's genuine believable chemistry between every single member of the cast (even the minor parts are beautifully realised and therefore ultimately believable). I liked it a lot and I suspect millions of other people will feel exactly the same.

Well done to all involved with "Gifted" and recommended big time.

Just remember to bring the face wipes with you to the cinema - and after it’s done - be prepared to want to hug your children with all the might you can physically muster...

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