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The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline


From Teaser Trailer

*Spoiler alert: some key plot points of the movie will be revealed.

Over Thanksgiving break, I watched the movie Gifted with my family. I had expected a cute movie with tearful and funny moments, and I was not disappointed. Not only was it heartfelt, the movie was also incredibly endearing with one-eyed cats, humorous one-night stands, and tear jerking farewells. However, one thing I was not expecting when watching this movie was for it to spark such an interesting discussion among my family members. After watching the movie, we began talking about the strained familial relationships in the movie as well as the question it raised regarding how to raise children. In analyzing it further, I was able to gain more insight as to how the themes touched upon in the movie are applicable to our everyday lives.

The basic plot of Gifted follows Mary Adler, played by young actress, Mckenna Grace, a six year old starting the first grade, much to her chagrin. Mary is hesitant to start public school after being homeschooled and taken care of by her Uncle and guardian Frank, played by Chris Evans. Ever since his sister’s suicide when Mary was only six months old, Frank has attempted to raise Mary the way his sister would have wanted, with love and affection.

Following Mary on her first day of first grade, it becomes clear that she is no ordinary student. In class, Mary makes no effort to hide her boredom from her teacher Bonnie Stevenson, played by Jenny Slate. In confronting her arrogance, Stevenson prompts her to try complex multiplication in her head, and finds out that Mary is “gifted”. When Frank is presented with the opportunity to enter Mary into a school for gifted children he refuses, feeling that it is not what his sister would have wanted. Upon hearing of her granddaughter’s potential, Frank’s estranged mother, Evelyn, played by Lindsay Duncan, reappears in their lives. Seeing and hearing of the way Frank is raising Mary, Evelyn decides to engage in a custody battle with him. As events unfold, past wounds are reopened, and Mary is caught in the middle of two opposing sides.

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This movie provoked a lot of thought for me. The main aspect of the movie which prompted me to write this review was the question it raised regarding how to raise children. Frank was raising Mary to become a human being who was kind, upstanding, and for lack of better words, normal. Despite Mary’s extraordinary capabilities, Frank wanted to make sure that Mary would still be able to be a child while she could. Evelyn on the other hand wanted to use Mary’s potential and challenge her to become a better learner, whilst at the same time isolating her from the world and a normal upbringing.

Throughout the film, the main relationship between Frank and Mary was portrayed as full of love and happiness. It was hard for me to find fault with Frank’s parenting style, as I have always felt that the most important thing for a child is for them to feel loved. That is also why I originally thought Evelyn’s character was the villain of the story, because she was placing so much pressure on Mary to achieve, and as a result sacrifice a life. However, Mary obviously had a thirst for learning and enjoyed math, in one scene she is shown to be buried in maths textbooks where Frank eventually has to drag her away in order to be outside. Evelyn encouraging Mary to grow as a learner was not a bad thing, but the act was not paved with good intentions. Evelyn had also done the same thing to her daughter, Mary’s mother, who had been a math prodigy herself.

In forcing her daughter to focus all her energy on maths, Evelyn drove her insane. Only when viewing her daughter’s work and the manic scribbles on the pages she used to solve a major problem, does Evelyn realize the pain and suffering she caused her daughter, consequently breaking down in tears. The pressure that Evelyn placed on her daughter is hinted at being a result of her own failure to achieve her dreams when she was younger. As a student at Cambridge University, Evelyn was a mathematician who worked to solve problems, but eventually got married and moved to America with her husband abandoning her research. This pattern of mothers or fathers forcing their children to pursue their interests in order to live vicariously through their offspring is a common theme that is recurrent in society.

After watching Gifted, I felt as though our own stress and pressure as we seek a higher education was explained. Whether or not you have parents who put a lot of pressure on you, and whether or not you are gifted, there is an immense amount of pressure to grow up. It seems as though every kid today is forced to think about universities and their future careers as well as how they will stand out to the world. However, if there is one thing this movie taught me, it is that we can’t force children to grow up too fast without inflicting a cost on them.

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