A ‘Gifted’ Girl at the Center of a Custody Battle

What’s in a child’s best interest? It depends on who’s answering the question. That’s the crux of “Gifted,” the director Marc Webb’s return to small-scale features after tangling with Spidey.

The gifted child here is a 7-year-old math prodigy, Mary (Mckenna Grace, charmingly precocious), who is being raised by her uncle Frank (an impressive Chris Evans). He wants a normal life for Mary; her mother, also a math genius, was under pressure and committed suicide when Mary was a baby. So they live a simple life with their one-eyed cat in Florida, where Frank fixes boat engines; the grime under his nails (and the beer he swigs) suggest that he’s firmly rooted in the working class.
Yet Frank and Mary’s strong bond — one of the film’s most convincing parts — is tested when he sends her off to the first grade. She’s been home-schooled, but Frank thinks it’s time she tried “being a kid.” While Mary can solve differential equations, she has less-than-advanced social skills and manners. Her teacher (Jenny Slate) recognizes her abilities immediately, and floats the idea that Mary would be better served at a prep school. Frank objects, but it’s too late: Soon Frank’s rich mother (a haughty Lindsay Duncan) arrives from Boston to usher Mary off to a life of higher learning. Next stop: the local court, where a fight for her “best interest” ensues, bogging down the story.
Octavia Spencer also pops up in this otherwise fleet-footed film, but the supporting role — if you can call it that — is paltry. She’s brilliant in her few scenes, yet hardly plays as full-fledged a character as she did in another film about mathematicians, “Hidden Figures.” If only there were a court for this injustice.


  • Director Marc Webb
  • Writer 
  • Stars Chris EvansMckenna Grace,Lindsay DuncanJenny SlateOctavia Spencer
  • Rating PG-13
  • Running Time 1h 41m
  • Genre Drama


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