Gifted

Summer Break is over and all the kids are heading back to school. While most of our kids are within the spectrum of normal intelligence, once in while a child is born with sheer brilliance; they just see certain subjects from a whole different perspective. Mary Adler (McKenna Grace) was that child. 

Mary’s mother (mom would indicate something different) was a gifted mathematician.  Sheltered her whole life by a mother who herself was gifted, Diane Adler really didn’t get much of an opportunity to truly experience life.

Pregnant and single, she confides in her brother Frank (Chris Evans), who sees her through the birth of Mary. Depressed and confused Diane puts Baby Mary to bed one night and goes into the bathroom and kills herself. Now before you start thinking this is some “downer” movie, let me assure you it’s not. This beautiful film starts with six year old Mary living with her uncle Frank in a loving though not affluent neighborhood in Florida. Frank loves boats and makes his living repairing them in this coastal community. He’s not rich, but he and Mary are happy. 

Frank has been home schooling Mary, but at six years old this former university professor has to admit that she needs to go to a “real” school. He knows she needs friends her age and to live a life as close to normal as a budding genius can—a gift her gifted mother never received.

Things are a little dicey at first but Mary settles in at school until the Principal takes it into her own hands to contact Evelyn Adler (Lindsay Duncan), Mary’s Grandmother. Well, the proverbial “you know what,” hits the fan and Evelyn shows up to do what she feels is right for Mary—as she did with Diane, Mary’s mother.

The amazing Octavia Spencer plays Roberta, Frank’s landlord, neighbor and best friend. She just happens to be Mary’s best friend as well. Roberta loves, protects and fiercely defends the little family. Every Saturday night Mary has a sleepover at Roberta’s. They dance and sing and they do girl things and act silly. For a gifted child, Mary has a fairly normal life.

Bonnie (Jenny Slate) is Mary’s teacher and has a relationship with Frank; you had to see that one coming (Chris Evans is pretty hot!).  She’s okay but not really pivotal to the plot. Oh, yes, there is a plot but I don’t want to spoil it.

Mary is too smart to not see the battle brewing around her that actually started with her mother and before that, her grandmother. She seems to understand intellectually, but is still emotionally devastated. 

I don’t know what it’s like to have a truly “gifted” child, so I can only speculate. I do know that if a child is blessed with brilliance at six, they are still going to be smart at 16 or 26. I believe we have to protect them with as much normalcy as they desire. The problems of this world will still be there for them to solve, when and if they are ready.  Life is meant to be lived, not spent in a room with a board and a marker pen. That is a decision to be made only by the person in the room.

I truly enjoyed Gifted. It was a compelling and intimate story. If you have experienced this dilemma and don’t agree (or do) with me, let me know. I look forward to your comments at chastings@rockcliff.com.