Wed | Aug 23, 2017

'Gifted' - a neatly wrapped custody battle tear-jerker

Published:Monday | May 1, 2017 | 5:00 AMDamian Levy
A custody battle threatens to separate Frank Adler (Chris Evans) and his niece Mary (Mckenna Grace) in ‘Gifted’.

Gifted is the story of seven-year-old Mary (played by Mckenna Grace), a child whose idea of a good time is figuring out complex equations that would stump the brightest minds on the planet. Despite Mary's mental prowess, she's about to face one of the most daring endeavours known to man - primary school.

For a movie that is all about the mind, Gifted is a movie that is all heart. What could have been a run-of the-mill, direct-to-video Lifetime movie is elevated by the treatment given to the story. Just as he did with 500 Days Of Summer, director Mark Webb brings his classic style to tell a story that resonates far more than it has any right to. With relatable characters and naturalistic dialogue, Gifted feels remarkably real as it tugs at your heartstrings one by one.

While the scenes do captivate, there's a feeling that Gifted is all too polished. A little grit would do this custody battle drama well. It posits difficult questions that have seemingly no right answers. However, even at his most grim, like when Gifted suggests the possibility of Mary's life being difficult no matter what happens in the end, there's not a sense of any real tension. Of course, you feel the pain endured by the characters, but it feels like those tears will be gone in the next 15 minutes or so.

Gifted is like a soft batch of cookies. It is sweet, warm and just chewy enough to satisfy a craving - but with absolutely no bite to it. For many people, that's just what Gifted needs to be - a light film to satisfy the viewing appetites on a smooth Sunday-afternoon outing.

There are many films like Gifted, but which fail to establish their characters, having poor performances and relationships that feel manufactured and hollow. Gifted does the opposite and delivers a film that is much better than it deserves to be.

Rating: Half-price