2017 Certificate: 12

Synopsis

Single dad Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is raising his spirited maths prodigy niece Mary (Mckenna Grace) in a coastal town in Florida. However, his plans for a normal school life for Mary are foiled when the seven-year-old's numerical abilities come to the attention of Frank's formidable British mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) whose plans for her granddaughter threaten to separate them. Solid, heartwarming stuff designed to tug the heartstrings.

Director

  • Marc Webb

Cast

  • Chris Evans

  • Mckenna Grace

  • Lindsay Duncan

  • Jenny Slate

  • Octavia Spencer

  • Michael Kendall Kaplan

  • John M Jackson

Review

What happens when a uber-numerate kiddiwink​ is plucked from the poor but happy home of the uncle who's raised her since her mum died by her coldly ambitious British grandmother? 

Well, you do the math.

The final calculation in this formulaic tearjerker will surprise nobody but there's plenty to enjoy in a drama that just about evades the Hallmark stamp thanks to some top mark performances (particularly from Mckenna Grace as the pint-sized prodigy) and a handful of acid quips.

Chris Evans plays Frank Adler, a Florida-based boatbuilder (Hollywood shorthand for a solidly decent Joe, albeit one probably afflicted by emotional trauma) who has raised his sister's kid Mary (Grace) single-handedly after her maths genius mother's suicide.

After seeing what happened to mom, he's determined to raise Mary as normally as he can - in a trailer park next door to huggy neighbour-from-heaven Roberta (Octavia Spencer) - until her mathematical ability becomes impossible to cater for at her standard elementary school.

At the same time gran (Duncan) - an ice-cold Brit living in snooty Boston - takes an interest (despite the fact she's blanked her for seven years) and launches a court bid to wrest control of the nipper and enrol at some poncey New England college.

If you can ignore the perfunctory courtroom sequences and a bizarre sub-plot involving a one-eyed cat on death row that seems to have strayed in from kids' TV,  director Marc Webb - more famous for the last Spider-Man reboot - has put together a touching drama that transcends its icky premise.

Evans is just fine as the decent cove just trying to do his best while Duncan does a fair Cruella de vil, a snarky W.A.S.P. convinced that money and connections can get you whatever you want.

Like a convoluted quadratic equation, you just hope it's all going to work out.  

Tim Evans