Gifted – Movie Discussion
Gifted is a rich gem of a movie with so many interesting angles I hardly know where to start. Mary is a math prodigy who lives with her uncle, Frank. She never knew her father and her mother died when she was a baby. Her grandmother, Evelyn, was never in her life, until she hears that Mary has her mother’s gift for mathematics. When Evelyn shows up, wanting to take custody of Mary, things get complicated. What is really best for Mary? Is it to be in an environment where she can be mathematically challenged, or is it better for her to have a “normal” childhood as a “normal” kid? And where does love play into it? It’s a thought provoking movie about parenting. It’s also a movie about what it is to be human and loved and accepted that has something to say to all of us, “gifted” or not.
Ultimately, the discussion about Mary’s best interests really come down to an issue of performance vs. love. Evelyn doesn’t understand love, she only understands performance. She only understands being admired by the world for accomplishments. Frank, however, has an entirely different perspective. He knows what it’s like to grow up with that kind of pressure. He felt it himself, and he saw the toll it took on his sister, Mary’s mom (also a math prodigy). He wants Mary to know that she is loved because of who she is, not because of what she does.
It may seem obvious but it’s a good question, though. If we have some talent or gift, is it negligence (as Evelyn called it) not to develop that gift to its full potential? Do we owe our gifts and talents to the world? I’m not sure that we don’t. However, that isn’t what gives us our worth. We offer those gifts to the Lord (and to the world) as an offering of love, not as a payment for love. It comes from a place of love, not as an act to earn love. Frank wanted Mary to be loved, first, so that all she did came from a place of love, not a need to perform.
Again, it seems obvious, but if we are honest with ourselves, we might all have to confess we struggle with this, too. We know in our heads that admiration isn’t the same as love, and yet how hard we all work to be admired, and how easily we distrust that we are just simply loved.
Mary had even more reason than her special talents to question if she was loved as she was. No father. A mother who committed suicide. A grandma she’d never known. And then Frank was court-ordered to surrender her over to “better” guardians…so it was natural that she would struggle with a sense of abandonment and feelings of being unloved. Frank, in a moment of inspiration, took her to a hospital waiting room and they waited there until, finally, a father came out to announce to waiting family that his son had been born. Everyone was rejoicing and overwhelmed with happiness. Frank looked to Mary and said, “That’s exactly how it was when you were born.” It was genius. Mary asked, “This happy?!” He confirmed, “This happy.” She then wondered, “Who came out and told everyone?” Frank said, “I did.” She had known him as a father, but hadn’t known that he was there in the beginning, standing in as her father, rejoicing over her. It was healing for Mary, knowing she was wanted…and that she was wanted long before she was smart. Knowing she didn’t have to do anything, but that people celebrated her from the moment she was born just because she was. Knowing she was rejoiced over. “Can we stay for another?” she asked. And she celebrated birth after birth with strangers in the waiting room, celebrating not only the birth of these babies, but the fact that she herself had been born and celebrated and loved.
If only it was that easy for the rest of us. If only we could have that faith of a child that when Jesus says he loves us, we believed it. If only we could believe He knit us together in the womb, rejoices over us with singing, loves us so much he died for us. We may know it’s true, but does it really free us from our orphan spirit, from our doubts that we are loved, from our need to perform and prove our worth? Maybe we, too, need to take a trip to the waiting room and just let the joy of birth sink into our souls and remember that it was “that happy” for us, too—if not on earth, then at least in Heaven.
Questions for Discussion:
- Do you struggle with a performance mentality—with feeling you have to perform to be valuable and/or loved?
- Evelyn and Frank had different perspectives on what should be done with Mary’s gifts, what things did you agree with and what things did you disagree with?
- Do you think that the things Evelyn said about what was best for Mary might have been more accurate if her motives had been more pure?
- What did you think of the scene in the waiting room? Why did that set Mary free? Do you think you might benefit from something similar?