By Michael Upton | 30/06/2017

Grace McKenna and Chris Evans in Gifted

KRAMER vs Kramer meets Good Will Hunting in this story of high-brow academia colliding with blue-collar America.

Chris Evans puts aside his Captain America costume to star as boat mechanic Frank Adler, father figure to seven-year-old Mary, a wise but unworldy girl seen heading reluctantly off for her first day of school.

Previously home-schooled and evidently clever for her years, Mary soon stands out among the grade one pupils at her smalltown Florida elementary, sneering at the easy sums they’re given and stunning her teacher with her prodigious multiplication abilities.

With Mary’s evident gift out in the open, it’s not long before teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate) has done a bit of Googling and discovered her Mary’s mum was also a renowned maths genius who met a tragic end after struggling with the pressures of her own extraordinary abilities.

So begins a tug of war begins between Frank, the uncle who adopted Mary and wants to give her a normal life as possible, and her grandmother Evelyn
— played as a fearsome pushy parent figure by our own Lindsay Duncan — who is keen to uproot her to Boston and let her academic talents bloom.

Things get legal — and ugly — pretty quickly.

A combination of courtroom drama, family melodrama and scenes of people drawing amazing equations on blackboards, Gifted won’t win many prizes for originality.

But it’s got a heart as big as the Atlantic Ocean its characters look out on, Evans has charm by the bucketload, Octavia Spencer provides polished support as a concerned neighbour and little Grace McKenna puts in a fabulously nuanced turn as the tug-of-love schoolgirl.

In mostly steering clear of saccharine sweetness, director Marc Webb (moat recently of two Amazing Spiderman films) has created a likeable, gentle drama with enough moments of humour and smart lines to keep you engaged.

It won’t win many Oscars, and you could predict the ending half-an-hour in, but I can think of plenty of worse ways to pass an hour and a half.

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