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Gifted (Chris Evans) - Review

Gifted

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

IF YOU’RE in the mood for some emotional manipulation then Gifted ticks all the right boxes.

A tug of love comedy-drama about a likeable uncle trying to retain custody of his maths genius niece, this unashamedly treads a clichéd path but somehow endears in spite of its over-familiarity.

Marc Webb, who shot to prominence with the charming indie rom-com 500 Days of Summer before heading down blockbuster way for two ill-fated Amazing Spider-Man movies, strikes a neat balance between the humour and the drama, while coaxing strong performances from an amiable cast.

As a result, you may find yourself so wrapped up in the emotional journey of its principal players that you won’t mind being manipulated along the way.

Chris Evans, taking a break from Captain America duty, plays former professor turned repairman Frank, who has been raising his seven-year-old niece Mary (McKenna Grace) since her mother – a maths genius – took her own life.

Aware that Mary has the same gift for maths as her mum, Frank has been trying to keep her off the radar. But worried that she is missing out on a normal childhood, he sends her to a nearby school, whereby her talents are quickly discovered and seized upon by her teachers.

When Frank then turns down the opportunity to send Mary to a school for gifted children, on a scholarship, Mary’s teachers contact her wealthy grandmother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan), who swiftly enters into a custody battle with her son, Frank, to help Mary realise her potential.

But will realising Mary’s genius come at the expense of a normal life, just as it did for her late mum?

Audiences will pretty much be able to guess the various plot beats before they happen, especially since Gifted almost steadfastly refuses to do anything different. But that doesn’t prevent it from hitting the right notes, whether in making you laugh or cry. It even manages to rise above some of its sentimental excess thanks in no small part to the winning nature of the performances.

Evans is good value as Frank, by turns stubborn, glib and caring, and it’s good to see him expanding his range outside of the superhero genre. But Grace is superb, evolving from precocious to anguished and heartbroken with consummate ease and laying down an impressive marker for the future.

Duncan, for her part, manages to find some sympathy in her portrayal of the mostly dislikeable Evelyn (she is at least afforded motivation for her actions), while there’s also eye-catching support from Jenny Slate, as Mary’s teacher who unwittingly becomes romantically involved with Frank (another of the film’s clichés).

Webb, meanwhile, keeps things moving at a fairly brisk pace and lands the key scenes (including a heart-rending separation scene) with the right amount of pain or, in the case of a hospital waiting room sequence, schmaltz.

Hence, for all of its shortcomings, Gifted works as a funny, touching and emotionally compelling human drama – a commodity all too rare in this effects-heavy blockbuster season.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 100mins
UK Release Date: June 16, 2017

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