Managed to snatch a film in between doing stuff today. The film, Gifted, features McKenna Grace as the seven-year-old mathematically gifted child in question, Mary, and Chris Evans as Frank, her caretaker uncle.
I guess you could say this film is a gift, itself, in some ways. Chris Evans plays the grounded former Philosophy professor who now repairs boats for a living – which sorts of leads you to question: why?
You only discover this a lot later, however, because the film’s opening scene greets you with him arguing with Mary about going to school. Mary, of course, doesn’t want to go.
But it’s not for the reasons that most kids don’t want to go to school. For once, a kid has an adult on her side: Roberta, a neighbour played by Octavia Spencer, also protests the idea.
“[I]f anybody takes that baby away, I’ll smother you in your sleep,” she tells Frank.
It’s not an entirely baseless threat. Typically, gifted children are segregated into what people like to call “environments of excellence” – where they slave away at being the best they can be at their craft. The adults typically also are the ones deciding this. Because children ultimately want to be children.
So, the question that plays in Frank’s mind throughout the entire narrative is: will being a kid be good enough for Mary?
His sister, after all would have wanted that.
His mother, Evelyn, played superbly by Lindsay Duncan, who cuts a properly English figure, doesn’t agree. Reeking of money, and poise, she tries to wrest Mary’s future from her son’s hands – you could say, she also had unfulfilled dreams in the past that now needed freeing.
That scene plays out time and again even in real life, doesn’t it? So many parents want their kids to fulfill their own long-lost dreams, only to find them losing both the relationship they could have had with their child, and sometimes, even the children themselves.
But also, in their bid for achievement, so many adults aren’t grounded enough to let their children just be children.
If there’s anything brilliance can’t buy, it’s a sound upbringing, with solid love, provision and care.
Yes, the world’s problems may need solving – but one child’s life isn’t necessarily the answer. We can be gifted in so many ways; we shouldn’t lose sight of that.