Chris Evans is convincing enough as a doting and brooding uncle here. Veteran Lindsay Duncan is a great addition to the cast and she lends gravitas to the drama the moment she walks in. Mckenna Grace holds her own next to the rest of the more experienced actors.
Unfortunately, the talents of the cast are wasted because they’re trapped in a formulaic schmaltzy Hallmark movie.
Instead of exploring its reasonable arguments, the plot turns into a predictable courthouse drama reminiscent of Kramer vs. Kramer. In between, you have a variety of hammy or forced moments, including waiting in a hospital for some stranger’s childbirth and watching the family celebrate.
At the center, we have a gifted kid who’s swung around without anybody asking what she wants. Of course in the world of generic child genius movies, her mom is a depressed socially crippled savant.
The characters become plot devices. Frank fixes boats for a minimum wage despite a commendable professional background to paint poor living conditions in court. Evelyn is a one-dimensional stage mom with a touch of Umbridge – very British, rich, and haughty. Of course, you have the token black wise woman Roberta who can’t have a conversation with Frank without being angry or teary-eyed. Even the pet cat has to be one-eyed and eventually used later to set-up a dramatic moment.
The result is an emotionally manipulative crowdpleaser that wastes its potential.
Given a more nuanced script, Gifted would have been the enriching drama it aspired to be if the story had been led by Diane instead of Frank.
Should she suppress Mary’s gifts for a normal life she never had or let the child surpass her which will make her sacrifices meaningless? Against a mother whose clearly living vicariously through her, it can double as a mother-daughter drama and how our relationship with our parents shape our own parenthood.
In fairness, the movie isn’t aiming for authenticity. It’s an earnest heartwarming picture content to stay within its genre conventions. However, it’s hard to invest in a story that hardly resembles anything genuine with its saccharine plot machinations and one-dimensional characters.
Gifted is backed by a talented cast (and an adorable cat) but they can't save this formulaic schmaltzy Hallmark movie about a child genius.