It’s been a wonderful year for math movies . . . and for Valley College students who get extra credit for attending them! The latest is Gifted, where a brilliant 7-year-old prodigy has an uncle who wants to protect her from the pressures of elite math. Most of the math in the story is well beyond us common folks; the film talks about the Seven Millennial Problems (each with a $1,000,000 award; get cracking, everybody!) and has a subplot where her mother made great strides toward solving the Navier-Stokes problem. (Don’t ask.)
The child is played by McKenna Grace, who is sweet and compelling in the role. Even for non-math people, it’s got a good plot and an interesting courtroom drama to it. There’s one scene with a bit of an overblown, Aaron Sorkin-y soliloquy, but for the most part this is a fine film. One harsh expletive in an otherwise acceptable screenplay. There’s a memorable line where the guardian uncle snaps at Mary’s demanding grandma: “So we push her and we push her to achieve this great math. And then what? She ends up with a life where the only people she can talk to are three or four old Russian guys.”
Of the trilogy of math films (The Man Who Knew Infinity, Hidden Figures, and now Gifted), Hidden Figures is the clear winner. Octavia Spencer is in two of them and steals the show each time. But all three are informative and smartly written tales.