Gilly (Sophie Nélisse) for a good portion of her life has gone from foster home to foster home due to her attitude. Now though she is with Ms. Trotter (Kathy Bates) and her new brother William Earnest, or W.E (Zachary Hernandez) for short. Both of them are nice, though W.E. is a bit shy, and they try to be welcoming. However, what Gilly wants is her mother to whisk her away and take her to wherever she is.
It Grows on you: When we meet Gilly, I swear to you I was hoping Ms. Trotter was a "spare the rod spoil the child" type of Christian because the girl was asking to be slapped. She would pick with W.E., who seemingly came from an abusive home, she would make fun of the way Ms. Trotter talks, and let's not even go into how she treated others outside her home. Between stealing, damn near calling someone the N word to get a rise out of them, and fighting, she was a terror.
However, after a certain point, she mellows out. She defends W.E., starts to get close to him, and even becomes friendly to this lonely girl at her school named Agnes (Clare Foley). Someone who seems so desperate for a friend she'd take Gilly's verbal abuse over the silence of being alone. With the transformation, you see the strength of the story and Nélisse's abilities as an actress. For even as Gilly mellows out, she still remains this sarcastic little brat. It is just she becomes a lovable one.
Even When It Shifts Focus It Stays Good: As Ms. Trotter implies, life is tough but there is nothing like doing good on a tough job. Which is what Gilly has to go through as she is introduced to Nonnie (Glenn Close), her maternal grandmother. With this shift, you may think that a happy ending may come and it will all be a fairy tale. Alas, Katherine Paterson, who some may recognize as the writer of Bridge to Terabithia, isn't the type who does happy endings and avoids serious personal tragedies just because the focus is on children. No. All I'm going to say is expect to cry multiple times in this film if you are as sensitive as I am.
On The Fence
The Life of W.E.: Quite honestly Mr. Hernandez could have stolen this movie from under everyone's nose if he wanted to. Nevermind he knows how to play up his cuteness, but being that we are told he came from an abusive environment, he plays to that backstory so well. Almost to the point, even though you'd probably end up dehydrated from crying, you kind of wish his story was told to us a bit more. Like Gilly finding his file or something.
Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing)
Forewarning: Gilly at first will be such a piece of work you may think this movie isn't worth it. However, as she begins to get close to people and starts opening up, oh she touches your heart. Especially as she bonds with W.E., this man named Mr. Randolph (Bill Cobbs) and even her grandmother. To the point, you will probably be fighting tears from how beautiful her transformation is. Especially as you start to learn about not just her, but these people around her and the struggles they have themselves with loss and other things. To the point that, at times, you almost wish when it came to Disney, Nickelodeon, and other networks which have kids entertainment, they would feature material like this. In a way, Girl Meets World does do that, but not as masterfully, and likely as consistently, as I feel something written by Katherine Paterson could.