The following is a movie review for which I received no compensation other than entrance to a pre-release screening.
I had the opportunity to see Gifted last night, before tomorrow’s official release. It’s taking me some time to unpack my thoughts and emotions on it, because, well, it’s giftedness. It’s something about which I’ve advocated and written for close to twelve years. It’s personal, it’s woven deeply into the tapestry of my family’s life, and in the general public it is so, so misunderstood.
The movie preview came out last fall and at first glance I was disgusted and dismayed.
Great, a stereotypical gifted movie that intimates that giftedness is special and awesome and elitism and sunshine and roses. Crap, now I have to write about how giftedness really isn’t like that and I am so sick of writing that and will someone please listen when I say that it’s hard and thankless work parenting a gifted child? Gifted kids are awesome but my god they are advanced parenting. I don’t know how much longer I can keep shouting into the wind; I’m getting a sore throat and it’s demoralizing.
And then I saw it.
I don’t know who the gifted consultant was on this movie (and I stayed through the credits to see if anyone was listed), but Gifted got it right. I still can’t believe it. In this age of reality TV shows pushing the notion that gifted kids are automatons, competing to be the Little Genius of the Hour, this movie actually dove into the reality of giftedness. Not the deep end, but deep enough to move around freely.
I saw my family in this movie.
A young child with a very strong sense of social justice.
An offhand warning about the risks of a bored gifted child.
Existential questions that I swear I’ve answered myself.
A preference for older friends/adults, that people her age were boring.
Intense emotions and over-excitabilities from the three family members.
The word meltdown was used, in a very matter of fact way, no judgment.
A philosophical discussion seamlessly segueing into silly humor.
The facial expressions from that kid…I’ve seen them on my own sons’ faces.
Grief for “what might have been,” for giving up one’s dream for her family.
Both adults breaking down over their children; I’ve often said that if you haven’t sobbed under your desk you may not have a gifted child.
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” comment.
The line “can I just get five minutes of my own life?” hit so close to home for me that I gasped and let out a sob.
I don’t know who all was in the theater (other than a Girl Scout troop), but there were times when I wanted to shout to all of them, “THIS! This is what it’s like! Do you have gifted children? Do you know what it’s like? THIS IS WHAT IT’S LIKE!” I wish I could have given a Gifted 101 presentation after the movie.
It wasn’t perfect but then it couldn’t be. The writers had to use a pretty broad brush to tell the story and move it along. For example, it’s extremely rare for a teacher to try and convince the parent that their child is gifted; usually it’s the parent begging the teacher for accommodations. Making the young girl a math prodigy from a family of math prodigies was necessary for the storyline, but it brushed aside the “gifted is wiring” part a bit and ignored the humanities entirely (which was noticeable in the uncle’s backstory). While it really did show how ceaselessly hard it can be to raise a gifted child, and how emotionally fraught it is, there was little indication of some of the hidden challenges gifted parents deal with. If the girl had complained of itchy shirt tags or sock seams I probably would have jumped up in the theater and cheered.
It was the small details, the ones that most of society would miss BUT WE WOULDN’T, that really showcased the giftedness. I felt the movie told a story and snuck in advocacy and educating the masses, like veggies hidden in a brownie.
If you go, and I highly suggest you do, take tissues. There will be a few spots where you may shed a tear. I had several instances of quiet sobbing and was thankful to have had a row to myself. I did manage to hold it together until the very end of the credits, until I saw the line “Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.” I proceeded to lose my shit, and then ugly sobbed in my car for a solid ten minutes. Parenting gifted and twice-exceptional kids is just so ceaselessly hard, and right now for me particularly so. Gotta tell ya though, that ugly cry was cathartic.
Get a sitter, grab your tribe, see the movie, and then go out for drinks. You will really want to unpack this with people who get it. I’m so relieved to have been wrong about this movie.
I’m grateful to the production company for the opportunity to catch a pre-release screening. And when they’re ready to make a movie about twice-exceptional kids, I can recommend a book for reference.