Raising children always has challenges. Many parents wonder what it would be like to raise a prodigy. In the movie Gifted, coming out this April, you can get a good look at the challenges. You can also see quite of bit of Tybee Island, near Savannah, Georgia, where the movie was filmed.
Raising Gifted Kids
In the new movie Gifted, Mary Adler, the child prodigy at the center of the story, is played by 10-year-old Mckenna Grace. When Mckenna arrived at the press junket, I asked her as a veteran traveler: “What is your must-pack item?” She left and returned with a stuffed seal. Even at the tender age of 10, she knows to bring a totem of home along to make a hotel room feel more homey. (Sounds like a TravelingMom tip, no?)
Chris Evans (of Captain America fame), plays Mckenna’s uncle, Frank Adler. He has been raising McKenna’s character since she was a baby and her mom died. McKenna’s character, the child at the center of the movie, has to contend with losing her mother and being gifted academically.
Octavia Spencer plays a neighbor in Gifted. In her last movie, Hidden Figures, Octavia was one of the human “computers” who worked on the space program. Both films emphasize encouraging women in education.
Here’s how it went when I met with the stars of the movie:
Finding Florida in Georgia
Tybee Island, Georgia, stands in for rural Florida in Gifted. This beach community makes a great day trip from Savannah; you can frolic on the beach, tour the lighthouse, or go kayaking and see wildlife. You can also have a pretty laid back beach vacation on Tybee Island. Or a relaxed upbringing; the kind of no pressure childhood the uncle in Gifted is trying to provide for his niece.
Focused on Family
Though Gifted focuses on family, the themes in the movie are intense. The mom commits suicide and the grandmother (played by Lindsay Duncan) sues for custody of the young math prodigy.
What I love about the movie is that it shows family in a different light–not just mom, dad, and kids. It’s a blended family that mirrors the realities of so many families these days.
Mckenna Grace steals the show. She’s so young and such a good actor. She’s smart and sassy on screen. Then you meet her in person and she’s a sweet, humble little girl who still travels with her stuffed seal–the same stuffed seal her mom had when she was a kid.
Chris Evans is hunky and sweet and believable as an actor, but the story is not believable. His mom–the grandmother of Mckenna’s character–is mean and domineering. She’s also a brilliant mathematician past her prime. As the story unfolds, we suspect that she drove her own daughter so hard that she committed suicide.
When she takes the granddaughter and starts driving her to excel the same way she drove her daughter, Chris Evans’ character doesn’t react in the way I would expect. He continues to be nice to his mom and is too easily convinced that he is not the right guy to protect the little girl, even though he’s been her guardian since she was a baby.
Taking the Message to Heart
It’s a feel good movie overall that made me think about how hard we push our kids in today’s society. What good is it to be gifted if you can’t enjoy your life? How do we know that pushing your kids ensures success? There is value to play and freedom and having a cat.
For the first years of her life, Mckenna’s character learns from her life in rural Florida (as depicted by Tybee Island) and from her travels to visit her grandmother in Boston. Travel, I always believe, is the best education for everyone. Travel teaches that the grass is always greener–Boston looks better from Florida but home looks better from Boston.