He may not throw a shield with pin-point accuracy or set himself alight, but Gifted bestows the superpower of covert charm on Chris Evans. Using these abilities, Evans serves up stoicism, grace and is happy offer up a healthy side of I'm-making-this-up-as-I-go-along. He makes it look easy, but even when he lashes out, he's so earnest it wouldn't be a surprise if others in the scene were to apologise instead.
Marc Webb (500 Days Of Summer), eager to get back into the kind of stories that put him on the map after The Amazing Spider-Man, is shrewd enough to channel the Evans' charm, but dial it back. Frank (Evans), is raising his niece solo after his sister's suicide, but rather than use the event to mawkishly tug at the heart strings, it's learned a little later. Which adds further layers to Mark's humility. To begin with, Webb is careful to draw us in to Frank's relationship with Mary. As much of a hero as Frank is, Mary is the gifted one. While she's obviously precocious, it's her first day at school that demonstrates her mathematical genius. Newcomer, Mckenna Grace, also has some less obvious powers of her own. Rather than wow with acting skills beyond her years, a la Haley Joel Osment, Grace deftly offers a genuine childishness to her role. It may sound obvious, but without it there would be nothing to keep the character grounded when she starts to correct equations at MIT or make her vulnerable when Grandmother (Lindsay Duncan) comes to town to steal her away.
Gifted is a small scale story with bigger ambitions, but it never forgets its heart. So be warned: Gifted is the kind of movie that sneaks up on you. It isn't malicious - in fact, quite the opposite - but much like The Notebook, Gifted defrauds with the tropes you've seen a thousand times and then, before you realise it, there's not a single dry eye in the house. In fact, so good is it's reliance on the dupe, that it suckers you more than once.
You can't deny that there narrative formula has some obvious remainders. There's a bit of Good Will Hunting here and Kramer Vs Kramer there. However, Gifted does offer up an uncomfortable dilemma about decisions made on a child's behalf. Especially when you must consider their future or what they could offer the world. The solution will depend entirely on your point of view, and while you may argue about it on the way home, Gifted is strong enough emotionally to persuade you.
4* - Sum-thing About Mary