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Soundtrack review: Gifted (Rob Simonsen – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Gifted (Rob Simonsen – 2017)



“Gifted” is a 2017 American drama film directed by Marc Webb and written by Tom Flynn. It stars Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan, Jenny Slate, and Octavia Spencer. Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is a single man raising a child prodigy – his spirited young niece Mary (Mckenna Grace) – in a coastal town in Florida. Frank’s plans for a normal school life for Mary are foiled when the seven-year-old’s mathematical abilities come to the attention of Frank’s formidable mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) whose plans for her granddaughter threaten to separate Frank and Mary. Octavia Spencer plays Roberta, Frank and Mary’s landlady and best friend. Jenny Slate is Mary’s teacher, Bonnie, a young woman whose concern for her student develops into a connection with her uncle as well. Rob Simonsen wrote the score.

Over the past 3, 4 years Rob Simonsen has slowly climbed my personal rankings with his honest and emotional way of writing music, with his unique brand of melodic minimalism that speaks more that many much more dramatic scores. This “less is more” composer is for me one of the safest best for a meaningful score and every time I see his name on an album I instantly smile and make listening to it a priority. “Mary’s theme” and “The test”, the cues that opens “Gifted”, with the subtle piano motifs and variations and the serious yet innocent mood convince me right from the start that I am going to enjoy the score. Rob Simonsen for me has all the traits to become the next Thomas Newman in creating a separate, light yet poignant piano and guitar niche for himself. Often I find similarities in their music, in their soundscapes. I listen to “Sneaking” and I get a very serious Thomas Newman playful vibe. I just embrace ever little nugget of music from this score as if it was a precious little creature that needed protecting; the overall tone of the score is sad but hopeful. The Rob Simonsen signature sound comes in little inserts that burst with piano energy such as “Boston” and, on the other side of emotion, the poignant solo piano of “Family history”. I cling to every note from a cue like this as I feel two minutes is not nearly enough time to enjoy this theme.

If you know Rob Simonsen and you know this more serious and melancholic side of his music then you know what to expect from “Gifted”; you will find here the ambient echoes, and the simple piano and guitar motifs that play honest pain and worry. There is very little joy in this score but I don’t even need them when I get a main piano motif as deep and addictive as the one here; it recurs in a lot of cues as if to remind us listeners that this story has a centre, a polarising core towards all other characters gravitate. I enjoyed “Gifted” as another powerful score from a composer whose music I really love.

Cue rating: 88 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 17 / 40

Album excellence: 42%

Mary’s Theme
The Test
Family History
Father vs Uncle
Diane’s Brother

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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