What makes a good life for our kids?
This is the question we parents ask ourselves throughout our days, and countlessly over the years.
The new film GIFTED gets right to the heart of the question, exploring the importance of family, education and happiness in a child’s development.
Tell me if these worries sound familiar…
“Should we encourage our child to apply for that magnet school program, or would she be happier going to her home school with her friends?”
“Is this school giving our kid all he needs? Should we look at other school choices? Should we move?”
“I’m feeling called to homeschool. Will I be enough?”
“Is this area the best place to raise our family? Should we look at jobs in other towns?”
“Is my child happy? Am I doing this right?”
I ask myself a variation on those questions, endlessly. My husband and I ask them together. We are constantly evaluating our three children’s needs, and the essentials come down to making sure that the three elements of Family, Learning and Happiness are all in balance.
The role of these elements in raising kids today is explored thoughtfully and with heart in GIFTED. I took my children Charlie (13) and Eve (11) to a pre-screening of the film, along with two fellow mom friends and their tweens and teens.
The premise of GIFTED is extraordinary: Mary (Mckenna Grace) is a first-grade girl who can solve theoretical mathematical equations on the level of an MIT professor. She is a genius, full stop. It’s hereditary. Her mother was on the Nobel track before she died, and thus her uncle Frank (Chris Evans) has raised Mary since she was a baby. He wants Mary to have a happy, well-adjusted life, after seeing the mental anguish his sister suffered as a genius pushed by parents, tutors and universities from the earliest age.
Because the movie premise is not an average household occurrence, the story becomes an allegory for all of us parents and families. Is Frank doing the right thing raising Mary away from the locked tower of academia? Is he giving her the best life possible by sending her to a standard first grade classroom to get to know kids her own age? What constitutes a healthy family? Is the loving neighbor who cares for Mary daily more important to her than a glory-obsessed grandmother?
When viewed from this reflective place, the film is moving and brings us to ponder the essentials. In my opinion, GIFTED is a beautiful poem in which we parents see ourselves in Frank, the father struggling to do the right thing, making mistakes and consumed with insecurity in his parenting choices. Roberta (Octavia Spencer), as Frank’s neighbor and the stand-in mom of Mary, symbolizes the traits of support we seek out in co-parents, friends and family. Mary’s grandmother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) stands for the pressures we face as parents, externally and internally, and the doubts we feel that we are doing enough for our kids.
At least, that was my take. All of us who saw the movie together had a different interpretation of the film and an opinion on what constitutes a life well lived. Our group of parents and kids talked about the film the walk from the theater and during the entire Metro ride home that night. One young friend mused that she would love to go to college early and be a genius. But then we all pointed out to her that she loved serving on the student council, performing in the school plays, and going to birthday parties on the weekends.
The GIFTED filmmakers knew that they were creating an exciting conversation starter for parents and kids, and so they created a family Guide_for_GIFTED. I encourage you to check it out to explore the themes addressed about education, family and what is really important, and use it for talking with your kids after the film.
Definitely take your kids to see GIFTED, or meet your parent friends to watch together.
And remind yourself that you are asking all the right questions.
What some of my favorite parenting writers are saying about GIFTED:
“If you are a critic of child actors, prepare to be impressed. Mckenna as Mary knocked it out of the park…she was the center of the movie. I forgot I was watching a little actor. I got sucked into her emotion, her cuteness, her heartbreak.” — Jenny Ingram of Jenny On the Spot
“GIFTED is an interesting and beautiful story. It’s different and unique. And in the end, you’ll leave feeling good. I don’t know about you, but in this day and age, at this crazy time in our country’s life, I need happy. I need feel-good. I need entertainment that entertains but doesn’t leave me feeling upset, angry, or drained.” — Amy Mascott, TeachMama
“The movie was great. I both laughed and cried. In the movie Mary Adler has a one-eyed cat named Fred. Later Fred is [SPOILER redacted about the awesome cat]. This was one of my favorite scenes.” [Now you really have to go see the film, or curiosity will kill….] — Delaney Smith, age 12 (daughter of Danielle Smith), Extraordinary Mommy
“If you’re a believer in families of all kinds, check out GIFTED. And don’t forget a tissue!” — ScaryMommy.com
Get tickets to GIFTED, which opens in select theaters Friday, April 7.