The Episcopal Commission on Social Communication-CBCP

CINEMA (Catholic INitiative for Enlightened Movie Appreciation) of The Episcopal Commission on Social Communication of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines presents movies viewed in the light of the gospel. . *** For inquiries, please EMAIL: cbcpcinema@gmail.com *** CALL or TEXT: (02) 664 5886 *** or WRITE TO: CINEMA, Episcopal Commission on Social Communication, CBCP Compound, 470 General Luna St. Intramuros, Manila *** Enjoy the reviews, and THANK YOU!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Alien Covenant

Direction: Ridley Scott; Cast:  Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterstone, Billy Crupud, Danny Mcbride;   Story:  Jack Paglen, Michael Green; Screenplay: John Logan, Dante Harper; Producer; Ridley Scott, Mark Huffam, etal;  Cinematography: Dariusz Wolski; Music Jed Kurzel;  Editing: Pietro Scalia;Genre: Horror-Sci-Fi; Distributor: 20th Century Fox; Location: outer space  Running Time : 123 minutes
Technical assessment:  3.5
Moral assessment:  3
CINEMA rating: V18
MTRCB rating: R16
Alien Covenant takes place after the events of Prometheus although the opening sequence is the beginning of the predecessor film wherein the synthetic David (Fassbender) questions mankind’s creator. Years after, aboard the spacecraft Covenant, Walter (Fassbender) looks after the space crew and the 2000 colonists and embryos onboard to Origae-6, a remote planet they plan to inhabit. Covenant is hit by space debris destroying part of the spaceship and killing the ship’s captain Branson and a few colonists. While repairing the damage, they pick up a radio signal which turns out to be a woman singing an old western song coming from a nearby unknown but habitable planet.  Oram (Crudup) the new captain, decides to check it out instead of continuing their original journey. Daniels (Waterston) disagrees but she is overruled by Oram. An expedition team descends to explore the planet. They discover the Prometheus ship but two crew members are impregnated by alien spores. In a series of mauling and killing, the survivors are rescued by David and led to his hideout in the city full of Engineer corpses. After several discussions, Walter realizes that David purposely unleashed the black liquid they were carrying on board the Prometheus which killed the Engineers. David then experimented on creating a new species, thereby transforming himself from a created servant into the creator and master. Walter and David struggle as Tennessee (McBride) arrives to extract the survivors. Daniels, and injured Lope (Bichir) and Walter escape and return to the Covenant only to face off with another alien who got implanted in Lope. Walter helps Tennessee and Daniels defeat the alien and they resume their journey to Oregae-6 in hyper sleep. Before Daniels falls asleep, she asks Walter to help her build the log cottage by the river, when she sees Walter is not responding as expected, she realizes that but it is David all along. However, it is too late as she succumbs to sleep as David places two alien embryos out of his mouth and into the cold storage together with the human embryos.
Ridley Scott delivers the same mystic suspense and calculated gore to keep the audience interested but sensitive to the images and concepts unfolding in the narrative. The story is well structured and is not hard to follow even without having seen the previous Alien films. It borders on predictability yet keeps the audience glued and anticipating. The elaborate and painstaking design presents a world that is cold yet alive, undiscovered and dangerous. Fassbender gives a believable performance as the charmingly faithful Walter and the manipulative David searching for purpose. It is unfair but inevitable to compare Waterston’s with Sigourney Weaver's Ripley—in all aspects she falls short. Overall, this Alien franchise entertains enough as it explores another philosophical question about existence and purpose. If it gives the answer… that is the question.
The pinnacle of one's existence is to be like God—to have the ability to create. And fortunately, mankind has been bestowed with this gift.  Man creates through arts, through invention, through procreation. And unlike other living creatures, man's ability to create is enveloped in the desire to be human—that is to love and be loved, to serve and be one. When man loses his humanity, his creations become destructive for they are done for self-gratification. Then he loses his purpose—he exists to conquer and devour. Then he becomes a monster. Alien Covenant illustrates this through David and Walter. Both created synthetics but one became more human because he retained his purpose to love, serve and be one with his community, while the other who despite discovering the ability to create transformed himself into the monster.  While the movie delivers profound points for discernment, the graphic action and gore are not suitable for young audiences.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Dear Other Self

DIRECTOR: Veronica Velasco  LEAD CAST: Jodi Sta. Maria, Xian Lim and Joseph Marco,  SUPPORTING CAST: Carla Martinez, Bodjie Pascua, Anna Luna, Paul Salas, Elaine Ochoa  SCREENWRITERS: Veronica Velasco, Jinky Laurel  PRODUCERS:  Charo Santos-Concio, Malou Santos  GENRE: Romantic Comedy  PRODUCTION COMPANY: ABS-CBN Film Productions, Inc.  DISTRIBUTED BY: Star Cinema  COUNTRY: Philippines  LANGUAGE: Tagalog  RUNNING TIME: 1hr 48 minutes
Technical assessment:  3
Moral assessment:    
CINEMA rating:  V14 
Isang debotong anak si Becky (Jodi Sta. Maria), kung ang pag-uusapan din lang ay ang pagmamahal sa mga magulang at kapatid na pinatutunayan ng dalaga sa pamamagitan ng materyal na suporta sa pamilya.  Matalino at bibong career girl si Becky kung kaya’t sa kabila ng mga gastusin sa pamilya ay nagagawa pa niyang mag-ipon ng pera sa pag-asang darating ang araw na papalarin siyang mag-adventure sa pamamasyal sa ibang bansa.  Gawa ng isang di-inaasahang pangyayari, masisisante si Becky sa trabaho, na siya namang magiging daan upang sa wakas ay makapag-pasiya na siyang iwanan muna ang mga pananagutan.  Sa Thailand, makikilala niya Henry (Xian Lim), at magsimula na nga and kanyang pagiging adbenturera.
May “gimmick” ang paglalahad ng kuwento ng Dear Other Self: sa pamamagitan ng mahusay na editing ay maayos nitong napagsalit-salit ang mga eksena ng dalawang posibilidad sa buhay ni Becky—kung mananatili siya sa Pilipinas, ay ganito ang maaaring mangyari sa kanya; at kung  makikipagsapalaran siya sa ibang bansa, ay ganoon naman ang maaaring sapitin niya.  Hindi gasinong pinalalim ng pelikula ang kuwento—masyadong sinikap nito na maging masaya at nakakakiliti ang aspetong romansa—ito ba’y dahil sa isang rom-com (romantic comedy) lamang ang pelikula?  Akma ang pagganap ng mga artista sa kani-kaniyang mga papel—lalo na si Sta. Maria na kinayang tumambal sa dalawang karomansa sa iisang pelikula—bagama’t may mga eksenang (close up) nakakabagot dahil pinahaba nang walang katuturan.  Nagdagdag ng kulay sa Dear Other Self ang mga eksenang kuha sa Thailand, at kapani-paniwala din ang mga artistang Thai sa husay nilang gumanap.

May isang kaugaliang Pilipinong napapaloob sa Dear Other Self ang maaaring talakayin sa pag-uusap-usap ng pamilya o mga kaeskuwela: ang pagsasakripisyo alang-alang sa pamilya, tulad ng ginawa ni Becky—bukas palad na pagpapautang sa ama kahit binabalaan na ng ina na sa bisyo lamang gagamitin ang pera; patuloy na pagpapaaral sa kapatid na inuuna pa ang kalaguyo kesa pag-aaral.  Paano ito nakabubuti?  Hanggang saan dapat magsaskripisyo nang ganito, at kailan at paano itong nakakasama sa kabila ng ating mga magagandang intensiyon?  Pansinin din natin ang di-kanais-nais na gawi ng dalawang estudyante na pinasok ang pre-marital sex sa kabila ng pagtutol ng magulang.  Sa bandang huli, diumano’y “tumino” ang estudyanteng kapatid nang lumayo si Becky—ano ang sinasabi ng pelikula sa pangyayaring ito?

Our Mighty Yaya

DIRECTOR: Jose Javier Reyes  LEAD CAST: Ai-Ai delas Alas, Megan Young, Zoren Legazpi, Sofia Andres  SCREENWRITER:  Jose Javier Reyes  PRODUCER:  Roselle Y. Monteverde, Lily Y. Monteverde  EDITOR:  Bebs Sabellano Gohetia  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Michael Idioma, Immanuel Verona  GENRE: Family Drama-Comedy  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Patrick Layugan  PRODUCTION DESIGNER: Ericson Navarro  DISTRIBUTOR: Regal Entertainment  LOCATION:  Philippines  RUNNING TIME:   103 minutes
Technical assessment: 2
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating: PG 13
MTRCB rating: GP
Si Virgie (Ai-ai Delas Alas) ay isang taga-probinsiya na nangarap ng magandang kinabukasan para sa kanyang anak. Nang hindi na sapat ang kinikita nilang mag-asawa sa bukid, napilitan si Virgie na tanggapin ang alok na trabaho sa Maynila bilang yaya. Mamamasukan siya sa mayamang pamilya ni Antonio Sevilla (Zoren Legaspi), isang biyudong may tatlong anak. Sa simulaĆ½ mahihirapan si Virgie na makibagay lalo pa’t tila mahirap makasundo ang bagong asawa ni Antonio na si Monique (Megan Young) na pilit ginugustong mapalapit sa mga bata ngunit sadyang mailap sila dito. Mapapalapit naman si Virgie sa mga bata—bagay na hindi magawa ni Monigue kung kaya’t sa halip na makabuti ay ito pa ang maaring ikapahamak  ni Virgie dahil lingid sa kanyang kaalaman, kinaiingitan na siya ni Monique.
Maraming pagkukulang ang Our Mighty Yaya pagdating sa mga teknikal na aspeto ng paggawa ng pelikula. Kulang sa bigat ang kuwento at tila hindi maliwanag kung ano ang nais nitong patunguhan. Ang mga patawa ay pawang pilit din na pinagtatakpan ng mga magkakahiwalay na maliliit na eksena para lamang maging kakaiba at katawa-tawa. Ngunit walang sinusundang malaking kuwento ang pelikula. Si Virgie bilang pangunahin at sentrong karakter ay hindi gaanong nahimay at nahagod ang buong pagkatao. Nabigo ang pelikula na ilabas ang kaluluwa ng kuwento. Nanatili ito sa mga pormula at isteryotipikal na pagkukuwento. Sa madaling salita, walang bagong inihain ang pelikula sa kabuuan.
Bagama’t maraming pagkukulang sa kuwento, hitik sa magagandang aral ang  Our Mighty Yaya patungkol sa mahalagang papel na ginagampanan ng mga kasambahay sa ating pamilya. Pambihira na ang mga katulad ni Virgie pagdating sa pagmamalasakit sa mga alaga at pamilya na kanyang pinagsisilbihan. Maaring sa simula ay nahirapan si Virgie na makibagay sa kadahilanang nakikita siya ng mga lahat ng tao sa bahay bilang pangit at ignorante—ngunit bandang dulo nama’y lumutang ang kabutihan ng kanyang kalooban kung kaya’t nakuha rin niya ang nauukol na paggalang at pagmamahal ng pamilya Sevilla. Isang huwarang yaya ang karakter ni Virgie—bagay na mahirap nang makita sa tunay na buhay.  Kung mapapanood ng mga yaya ang pelikula, nawa’y magsilbing insipirasyon ito sa kanila upang pagbutihin ang kanilang napiling papel na gampanan sa mga pamilya. Sa mga amo naman, isa ring mabuting halimbawa ang pamilya Sevilla pagdating sa pagtrato sa kanilang yaya at kasambahay. Hindi sila itinuturing na iba—bagkus sila ay pinakikisamahan ng tama. May mga bata ring sobrang pilyo tulad ng mga bata sa pelikula—pero kung minsan, ang kapilyuhan at pagiging spoiled ay maaring maiwasan kung gagabayan nang tama ng magulang ang kanilang mga anak. Dapat din itong makita sa pelikula—na ang paghubog sa karakter ng mga anak ay hindi lang dapat iniaasa sa yaya o sa paaralan, pagka’t laging may malaking papel ang magulang. Sa bandang huli ay pagmamahal pa rin ang namamayani—sa gitna ng inggitan at alitan, ang kabutihan at pagmamahal ang magpapanatiling buo sa pamilya, kasama na rin ang mga yaya at kasambahay.  Bagama’t maaaring panoorin ito ng mga bata, may mga eksena pa rin sa Our Mighty Yaya na nangangailangan ng gabay ng mga magulang.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Luck at First Sight

DIRECTOR: Dan Villegas  CAST:  Jericho Rosales, Bela Padilla, Cholo Barreto, Kim Molina  PRODUCER:  Joyce Bernal  SCREENWRITER:  Ays de Guzman   PRODUCER:  Joyce Bernal  EDITOR:  Marya Ignacio  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Emerzon Texon  GENRE:  Romantic Comedy  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Mycko David   PRODUCTION COMPANY: VIVA Films and N2 Production  DISTRIBUTOR: Viva Films  COUNTRY:Philippines  LANGUAGE: Filipino  RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
Technical assessment:  3
Moral assessment: 2.5
CINEMA rating:  V14
MTRCB rating: PG
Magkukrus ang landas nina Joma (Jericho Rosales) at Diane (Bela Padilla) sa panahon na  pareho silang  nahaharap sa matinding pangangailangan sa pera. Talunan sa sugal si Joma at binabantaan na nang mahigpit ang kanyang buhay ng kanyang pinagkakautangan.  Si Diane naman ay niloko ng kapartner sa maliit na negosyo, at mahigpit na nangangailangan ng pangtustos sa ospital at mailigtas ang buhay ng biyudong ama.  Mapagpaniwala sa mga pampaswerte si Joma kaya makakabili siya ng “life charm”—mistulang holen na luntian—na diumano’y magdadala sa kanya ng solusyon sa mga pinansiyal niyang problema.  Sa mga di sinasadyang pagkakataon na makikita niya si Diane ay magaganda ang mga nangyayari sa kanya kaya matantanto niya na si Diane ang life charm  niya.  Makikipagkilala at makikipagkasunduan siya kay Diane na maging “business partners”.  Sasamahan siya ni Diane sa pagsusugal para masiguro ang panalo na paghahatian nila. Bilang life charm, mas pisikal na malapit si Diane kay Joma ay mas malaki ang panalo at parehong malulutas ang problema nila sa pera. Labis ang kasiyahan nila sa swerteng ito. Kaya lang kundisyon ng life charm na hindi dapat sila magkagustuhan dahil kapag nagkagayon ay mababaligtad ang swerte sa malas.
Bagamat predictable ang kwento, maayos naman ang script  ng Luck at  First Sight.  Mahusay ang pagkakadirehe sa mga nagsiganap.  Natural at epektibo si Rosales at si Padilla sa kani-kaniyang papel.  Nakakaaliw din ang mga eksenang patawa nina Kim Molina at Cholo Barreto bilang mga sidekick  ng dalawa, pero medyo OA ang dating ng eksenang nagpapa-sexy si Diane sa harap ng kolektor ng ilaw na bading naman pala.  Hindi rin makatotohanan ang disenyo ng produksyon sa ilang mga eksena tulad ng sobrang linis na sabungan, pinipinturahang botika,  tindahang naputulan ng kuryente, at sa ospital kung saan nasa private room pa ang ama ni Diane gayong kapos nga sa pera.  Wala rin sa hitsura ng ama na may sakit siya—masyadong malusog ang dating.  Mahusay ang editing lalo na ng mga eksenang nagpapakita ng mga sunod-sunod na pagwawagi sa sugal ng dalawa. Akma ang mga inilapat na musika at nakatulong upang paigtingin ang pinaghalong romansa at patawa ng pelikula.
Parehong taliwas sa tamang pagpapahalaga ang pagsusugal at paniniwala sa swerte ang lumulutang na tema ng Luck at First Sight.  Sa tindi ng pangangailangan, swerte at sugal lamang ang idiniing solusyon ng pelikula.  Katulad ng nangyari sa kanyang ama ay sugal din ang naging dahilan kung bakit nalubog sa utang si Joma pero mukhang hindi pa rin siya nadala—nangdamay pa siya sa paniniwalang ito at sinamantala ang pagtitiwala sa kanya ni Diane.  Lubhang kaakit-akit ang paglalarawan ng sugal sa pelikula, na pinatamis pa ng pagkakahulugang-loob nina Joma at Diane.  Dahil dito, baka hindi na mapansin ng manonood ang positibong mensahe ng Luck at First Sight: ang tunay na tagumpay ni Joma.  Bagama’t sa sugal muli siya umasa at pinalad namang manalo, ang sandali ng kanyang tunay na pagwawagi ay noong talikuran niya ang kanyang pagiging sugapa sa panalo.  Hinimok siya ng kalaban sa sugal upang “palakihin” pa ang kanyang napanaluhan, ngunit tumanggi siya.  Ang mensahe sa puntong ito ay: nakilala na niya ang kasawiang-palad na dulot na pagiging sakim sa panalong dala ng “swerte”.  Tumanggi siyang isugal pa ang hawak na salapi, at lumisan siya ng bahay-sugalan.  Dahil sa tatag ng kanyang desisyon, nagawa niya ang nararapat: ibalik ang perang dapat ay kay Diane, bayaran ang utang sa nagbabanta sa kanyang buhay, at magsimula ng marangal na hanapbuhay.  Paalala ng CINEMA: ang kabuhayan o pagkita ng malaki ay pinaghihirapan at hindi dapat iasa sa sugal, anting-anting o pampaswerte.  Sa pagharap sa hamon ng buhay ay mahalaga na mayroon pagsisikap, tamang desisyon, at pananalig sa tanging nagkakaloob ng biyaya na walang iba kundi ang Diyos. 

Fast and Furious 8

DIRECTOR: F. Gary Gray   LEAD CAST: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson,    Chris Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood, Charlize Theron, Helen Mirren  WRITTEN BY: Chris Morgan  BASED ON CHARACTERS BY: Gary Scott Thompson  PRODUCERS: Neal H. Moritz, Vin Diesel, Michael Fottrell,   FILM EDITORS: Nei Christian Wagner, Paul Rubell  GENRE: Action, Crime, Thriller  CINEMATOGRAPHY: Stephen F. Windon  MUSIC: Brian Tyler  PRODUCTON COMPANIES: Original Film, One Race Films, Perfect World Pictures, China Film Group Crporation  DISTRIBUTORS: Universal Pictures  COUNTRY: U. S. A.  LANGUAGE: English RUNNING TIME: 2 hours & 16 minutes
Technical assessment: 3.5
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating: V14
MTRCB rating: R16
The eighth installment of the popular Fast and Furious franchise, this one follows the honeymoon of Dominic Torretto and Letty (Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez) in Cuba while the rest of the crew are exonerated and living the semblance of a normal life. Then one mysterious woman, Cipher (Charlize Theron) interrupts Dom on their way back home and offers him to work for her. Dom is hesitant at first but she shows him something that causes him to consider the offer.  Back home, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) once again recruits Dom and his crew to prevent a strong weapon of mass destruction from falling into dangerous hands – but at the end of the mission, Dom betrays Luke and steals the weapon from him. It is then revealed that Dom now works for Cipher—who apparently is an international terrorist and hacker—and the entire crew is soon forced to go up against them. Has Dom really turned his back on the team he calls family?
Fast and Furious 8 remains to be an exciting spectacle of fast cars and high technology. As expected of its genre and for what the franchise is known for, there are explosions, destructions, havoc, speeding cars and car crashes galore. Audiences are fascinated by all these considering the feast of flashy luxury cars and the involvement of cyber-technology in its manipulation. But central to the spectacle is the heart of the story that revolves around family and teamwork. Amidst the seemingly chaotic picture is a story with a clear villain and a team that is up to stop her at whatever the cost—even if it means going up against a former member whom they consider family. The plot gets to be interesting as it reveals layers and layers of motivations—clearly defining each character’s significance in the entire story.  The film has no pretensions of going bizarre and philosophical but it is still able to elicit a certain level of suspense and excitement with a dose of drama and humor.

Fast and Furious 8, despite its expected noise and chaos, centers on family and relationships anchored on values that are explicitly Christian. The team has developed a familial bond that goes beyond blood relations. They protect one another and do not turn their backs entirely on a member believing that family is family. The crew is always keen on saving humanity from harm and evil plot and it takes a team of their caliber of courage, strength and bravery to do such life-threatening mission. The cross is a major element in the plot and plays a vital symbolism for the characters’ faith and salvation. Even the seemingly ultra-powerful villain is defeated by the presence of the cross—although the battle may not be really over.  The characters are seen making the sign of the cross, praying in the middle of the battle, saying grace before meals and their central goal is to save a family and the world—traits that are characteristic of a good person and a good Christian. However, it cannot be denied that inherent to the film’s genre, there are frequent scenes and graphic images of violence, cursing, and some sexual innuendoes which are inappropriate for the very young audiences even if those scenes are within the film’s context.  So CINEMA deems the film as appropriate only to audiences ages 14 and above. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2

DirectionJames GunnCast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Kurt Russel, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Chris Sullivan, Vin DieselScreenplayJames Gunn; Based on Guardinas of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett and Andy LanningCinematography: Henry Braham; Editing:  Fred Raskin, Craig WoodProducerMarvel StudiosMusicTyler BatesGenre: Sci-Fi Action; Distributor: Walt DisneyLocation: The Galaxy  Running Time136 minutes 
Technical assessment3.5 
Moral assessment3
CINEMA rating: V14   
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, like its predecessor, opens up with a dance sequence from Baby Groot (voiced by Diesel) as Peter (Pratt), Gamora (Saldana), Drax (Bautista) and Rocket (voiced by Cooper) fight of a multi-dimensional monster. Between protecting Baby Groot and fighting with each other, the four defeat the monster and return to Ayesha (Debicki), golden Queen of the Sovereign Race.  Apparently, the Guardians were hired to protect some very valuable batteries in exchange for Gamoras estranged sister Nebula (Gillan). But Rocket being Rocket steals a few batteries and causes them to be attacked by the Sovereign drones. Fortunately, a mysterious figure comes to their aid but causes the Guardian’s ship to crash land.  The mysterious stranger introduces himself to be Peter’s Celestial father, Ego (Russel). Peter, Gamora and Drax follow Ego to his home planet while Rocket repairs the space craft with Baby Groot and Nebula. Desperate to have a real family, Peter ignores Gamora’s suspicions and Mantis’ (Klementieff) warnings.  Afterwards, Yondu (Rooker) arrives to re-capture the Guardians, Nebula escapes to kill Gamora whom she blames for all the torture she received from their father, and Ego’s real plans are revealed. 
Guardians of the Galaxy sits on three strong aspects: impressive visuals, excellent comedic timing, and interesting plot development. First, the artistic and technical quality of the CGIs and post production manipulation is beyond impressive for it brings to life a new world that is both fantastic and believable. Second, the characters are dynamic and likeable. More than the punchlines delivered on point, both the good and bad girls and guys are relatablehence able to connect with the audience. The humor of the script is cleverly written and results in a genuine laugh even after one has left the theaters. Funny makes the movie heartwarming and diverts attention to the sometimes over-the-top aggression. And finally, audience can follow the story with all the new characters and complicated twists even with no prior knowledge of the comic franchise or the movie prequel. It is simple but unpredictable and multifaceted but tight.    
Guardians of the Galaxy has ever since capitalized on the concept of familybiological and adoptedfrom the love-hate relationship among  Peter Quill, Ego and Yondu, to the rivalry between Gamora and Nebula, to the unequivocal love everyone has behind all the squabbles and bickering.  The guardians love each other and will put aside differences for the sake of the other. In so many ways, family and relationship has been redefined. Sibling rivalry is actually a cry for attention and support. Disagreements and fights yet remaining loyal and faithful to the same person means acceptance and willingness to go beyond the surface. Choosing to side with a stranger to uphold what is right versus loyalty to one’s sinister master shows the value of cultivating relationships based on honesty and integrity. Each character and sub-plot reveals a positive relationship. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Gifted

DIRECTOR: Marc Webb  LEAD CAST: Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan, Jenny Slate, Octavia Spencer  SCREENWRITER: Tom Flynn  PRODUCER:  Andy Cohen, Karen Lunder  EDITOR:  Bill Pankow  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Rob Simonsen  GENRE: Drama  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Stuart Dryburgh  DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Bros  LOCATION:  USA  RUNNING TIME:   101 minutes
Technical assessment:  3.5
Moral assessment:  3.5
CINEMA rating:  V13
MTRCB rating:  PG
On her first day of school, seven-year-old Mary (Mckenna Grace) is discovered to be a mathematical genius.  The school principal offers a full scholarship for Mary at a school for gifted children but her guardian and uncle, Frank Adler (Chris Evans), brother of Mary’s deceased mother, rejects it.  Frank insists he had promised his late sister Diane, Mary’s mother, that he would raise Mary as a normal child in due time, lest the child suffer a fate similar to her mother who was a mathematical prodigy herself but committed suicide when Mary was barely six months old.  One day Frank’s wealthy and estranged mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) appears at the doorstep of Frank’s humble shack in Florida, claiming it would be best for Mary to live with her in Massachusetts where her genius may be best honed to prepare her for a life devoted to mathematics.  How will the court battle for custody between Mary’s uncle and her grandmother turn out?
Gifted exceeds expectations its trailers may have created.  For one, the actors really deliver:  Captain America is completely obliterated in the intensity of Evans’ performance as the devoted uncle Frank Adler.  As a seven-year-old Mary losing her milk teeth, Grace (who was actually 10-years-old during filming) is spot-on adorable and formidable when she has to be.  Duncan as a poised upper-crust Brit and yet a virtual stage grandma is at once convincing and pathetic.  Gifted would have easily slid into a soppy melodrama were it not for the insightful script which plays fair in peeling layers of desirable and undesirable traits of both Frank and Evelyn in their fight for custody—both mean well, but both are flawed, too.  When the dust settles, neither wins nor loses although justice is till served by the weight of a dead mother’s secret wish, and the desire of the daughter who never knew her.

In essence, Gifted presents two competing parenting philosophies and asks the viewer to ponder the responsibilities of both parents and society in so far as the nurture and upbringing of gifted children is concerned.  If we raised a gifted child as we would “any ordinary kid” we might be wasting her strengths otherwise useful to society; on the other hand if we focused on honing her gifts alone she might end up dehumanized, brilliant but emotionally robotic.  It is a complex question to answer butby gently zeroing in on tender and carefree moments between Frank and Mary—Gifted breathes compassion and human kindness into the issue, providing a satisfying and beautiful equation in the end.