The Prodigy (2019)
Director: Nicholas McCarthy
Performers: Taylor Schilling, Peter Mooney, Brittany Allen, and Jackson Robert Scott
A young boy’s mother struggles with the dawning realization that her son may be victim to a supernatural force.
This was a taut movie, with a slick opening crafted to snag audience interest from the get-go. Young actor Jackson Robert Scott is believable as Miles, the afflicted child, and both Taylor Schilling and Peter Mooney are modern, caring parents who only want the best for their son. For people who have kids, this movie taps into the fears that folklore, like that of the Irish changeling, has exploited for centuries – that a loved one isn’t who they claim to be or hides some dark secret. Plenty of parents have felt this fear, especially in the wake of the spate of school shootings across the nation. It’s a timely film, and one that’s sure to get attention from movie-goers for the scares and the high tension it maintains throughout.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
The movie opens with the death of a serial killer (Paul Fauteux) gunned down in the same moment a child, Miles, is born to parents Sarah (Taylor Schilling) and John (Peter Mooney). This is a tense moment because of the juxtaposition of the escaping victim (Brittany Allen) leading the police to her captor’s home and the hospital birth. This cycle of life and death sets the tone of the movie, with death as change moving throughout. By the time scholar Arthur Jacobson (Colm Feore) brings up reincarnation, we’ve already been through a wild rise with Miles’ personality shifts and violent outbursts. The kid does a great job of being soft and scared or annoyed at once moment, like a normal kid, then speaking and acting like an experienced killer. It’s genuinely disturbing.
The problem, like most Hollywood movies dealing with reincarnation, is that the film misses the point of reincarnation itself and, of course, misrepresents it. I’m not surprised by it, and you shouldn’t be either. To their credit, I was able to ignore it for the sake of the film. If it’s part of your belief system, though, you may find it distracting.
The other problem is that Miles goes far too long being far too violent before there’s actual talk of locking him up. But I struggle with this as a flaw: Isn’t that how it goes these days, with killers assumed to be good and just loners until they lash out? Miles also comes from a family that’s white, upper middle class, can afford to send him to the best schools for gifted youth. There’s privilege here, but I’m not sure if the director is commenting on that as a fertile ground for accidentally creating monsters through good intentions or if it’s just a convenience.
Regardless, it’s a scary thriller worth watching. Just be careful showing it to new parents: it may hit a little too close to home.
Kelley M. Frank