For those of you who like sappy Lifetime movies, this will be right up your alley.
Characters & Storyline
Ever since his sister Diane committed suicide[note]at age 27[/note], Frank (Chris Evans) has raised her only child Mary (Mckenna Grace), by himself in Florida. However, now that she is 7 years old and he has reached the end of what he can teach her, he wants her to go to school. However, it isn’t so much about academics, for the child is a prodigy like her mom, but more so he wants her to go to a normal school to learn how to socialize and have a normal childhood. For just spending time with him, their landlord Roberta (Octavia Spencer), and their cat Fred isn’t going to do that for her.
However, as the school learns of her abilities they call in Frank’s mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan). Who, upon realizing she is gifted like her daughter, she wants to set her on the same path Diane was on. The one thing, Frank claims, Diane never wanted for Mary and hence that is why he got guardianship.
Never get on the bad side of small minded people who have a little authority.
Faith’s about what you think, feel, not what you know.
This Will Make You Get Teary-Eyed
The film is set up to pull on your heartstrings as you watch this precocious and sort of arrogant, child interact with her uncle. Someone who pretty much is her world and they have such a relationship that it is easy to forget these are two actors. For, honestly, there are times you almost wonder if we are watching someone’s well-shot family movies.
But you especially have to give props to Grace as Mary for while she shares the emotional weight of the movie with Evans, the way the film is written doesn’t allow her to just be a pawn or accessory. Mary is written and performed to be her own person with her own thoughts, feelings, questions about life, and desires. Some of which are listened to but then you see the unfortunate inability of a 7-year-old to have autonomy over their lives. Even if their current circumstance they consider happy.
So when things get bad, as much as Evans may cry or get upset, it is watching this little kid bang on a window, with her two missing front teeth, that gets to you.
Evelyn Isn’t Painted As the Absolute Bad Woman Here
One of the things which I like about Evelyn is that she isn’t portrayed as the mean old grandma who wants to turn her granddaughter into a number crunching machine. She wants her to live to her full potential, perhaps finish what her daughter, Mary’s mother, started. Which, may make her seem cold and calculated, but you are reminded of how important it is to cultivate the minds of children like Mary.
Plus, it gets established that despite Frank’s abilities and his own aptitude, he doesn’t have all that could be provided to Mary. Evelyn has a nice house, health insurance, can afford a piano, Macbook and all of that. Frank mostly provides just love, experience, and a roof over their heads. Not to imply he is destitute, but there is this idea put out there that no one is perfect. Each side has their plus and minuses and being that Evelyn never got a chance to be with and influence Mary, you can’t blame her for fighting. Especially since it is portrayed that Frank straight up took Mary and disappeared from Massachusetts to Florida.
On The Fence
Perhaps one of the major and gaping issues of this movie is we never get to meet Diane personally and only really get to see her in a handful of pictures. With that, what perhaps is the emotional center point, her suicide, is only talked about in 3rd person. We don’t get to hear her call for Frank and him sort of blow her off to get laid. We don’t see him discover her dead while her baby is crying in another room. Which, to some, may not be necessary, but for her to be the craw which makes who Mary belongs to such an issue, it sucked that she is utterly absent from this movie.
Overall: Mixed (Divisive)
Despite crying a bit, and laughing a little, I feel too hesitant to label this “Positive.” If only because, while the actors were good, none of them felt exemplary. Then with the plot, as much as you want to praise the relationships established, and how Evelyn wasn’t made to be some indisputable villain, that seems like the basics vs. something to be put on a pedestal for.
Hence the Mixed label. For while a likable movie, it is also largely forgettable. Plus, while there is a desire to note Grace’s performance, when you compare it to Amybeth McNulty or even Oona Laurence’s work, it feels too early to say she maybe a star of the generation which follows those two. Leaving you with what honestly feels like a Lifetime movie that actually had some sort of thought and care put into it.
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