First Hit: Well-acted story about love and doing the best for the ones you love. This film is about how one raises a child that is not your own, a genius, while having a conflict with the biological family. It is also about ego and family.
Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is raising his sister’s daughter Mary (McKenna Grace). His sister committed suicide and as we learn later in the film, she may have run out of a purpose for living. Her purpose was solving a specific math theorem. How Frank ends up with Mary is slightly shrouded in mystery and begs the question; where's the biological father in all this?
Their mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) is wealthy, smart on her own accord, and suddenly becomes interested in Mary, when it’s discovered that the young girl is also a genius.
Frank has help raising his niece. Roberta (Octavia Spencer) is a neighbor and loves Mary as her own. Mary spends Saturday nights with Roberta allowing Frank some space and relaxation from being a sudden father figure. Roberta also gives Frank child rearing guidance as well as an undying trusted friendship.
Frank’s history with his family comes to play when his mother attempts to take Mary away from him because she wants Mary to be schooled privately and then pushed into doing theoretical mathematics at MIT. However, Frank wants to fight to keep Mary because that is what his sister wanted. She wanted Mary to have a more normal life, not the kind of life she had and he agrees.
Helping both Frank and Mary is Mary’s school teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate). Bonnie identified Mary’s potential and also saw the kindness in her heart. She helps Frank find a way to do what he needs to do.
Evans was excellent. To see him in this type of serious role showed me (and the audience) he’s more than Captain America. Grace was sublime. I loved watching her be both a fun-loving kid, as expressed when she lipped synced with Roberta, and as a smart kid who knows how compute complex mathematical formulas. Duncan was perfect as the wealthy overbearing controlling mother. Spencer was divine as Frank's close friend and part time baby sitter. Slate was very good and I really liked how she took it upon herself to help Frank find a way to make Mary’s transition work. Tom Flynn wrote a very strong script that reflected the different sides and issues well. Marc Webb did a nice job of staging the scenes and story.
Overall: This was an engaging picture and I ended up liking the story.