Gifted 2017 ****

 Cat-rescuing is a noble profession; from Ripley in Alien onwards, it’s become such a cliché that there’s even a screenwriting manual named after the conceit. When Frank Adler (Chris Evans) rescues the cat belonging to his niece Mary (McKenna Grace) towards the end of Mark Webb’s Gifted, it’s a crucial plot-point and a feel-good moment in a slight but affecting film about children, education and family. Mary’s mother is dead by the start of Gifted’s narrative, and Frank has been raising her despite the antipathy of her grandmother Evelyn(Lindsay Duncan).  Once she starts at school, Mary’s gift for maths attracts the attention of her teacher (Jenny Slate), but Frank is reluctant to feed this particular fire, since Mary’s mother was a maths prodigy who ultimately killed herself. Gifted plays with a tug-of-war between Frank and Evelyn that’s settled in a very satisfactory way; throw in support from Octavia Spencer, and Gifted is a strong package of thoughtful entertainment for those seeking a restrained slice of drama.

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