A psychologist engages a dangerous, young genius in a battle of wits — unaware of the supernatural power the girl possesses, or that her life hangs in the balance.
Just outside a secret government facility, Fonda (Richard Neil) sits on a park bench and is greeted by Olivia (Jolene Andersen). The two exchange misleadingly innocuous pleasantries and Fonda is led to his assignment deep inside a maximum security compound.
Ellie (Savannah Liles) sits waiting in a cold, fluorescent-lighted room, a steel metal table bolted to the floor in front of her. She herself is situated on an equally uncomfortable stainless steel chair, and safely secured in a straight jacket. To her left, a huddle of scientists and technicians view her from a two-way mirror, ready to flip a kill switch should she act out.
“She is situated on a stainless steel chair, and safely secured in a straight jacket…”
What powers could Ellie possibly possess that would elicit such precautions? Why is Fonda, a psychologist, asked to come and assess her? These questions are swirling as he enters the room and begins to politely question the child.
Prodigy is a new thriller from the writing-directing team of Alex Haughey and Brian Vidal. A psychological cat and mouse movie that follows the mental gymnastics between a mental expert with a past and an equally abled child with special abilities. As the story unfolds, little details emerge that hint at a much larger story. We get clues on everything from the relationship between Fonda and Olivia, to what led to a seemingly innocent child being locked down and threatened with scientific study.
While not perfect, the film is a crackling game of chess, sometimes literally, between two characters. Liles Ellie is a guarded and calculating adolescent with powers that she barely understands. Neil‘s Fonda picks and prods at Ellie hoping to get the answers he needs while tempering his performance with a subtle warmth.
“Thankfully there is far more going for this little movie than not…”
The film has a lean cast and a very intimate feel. With most scenes taking place inside the facility, directors Haughey and Vidal narrowly miss getting too claustrophobic by breaking scenes up with brief scenes outside of the observation room. The main issues with Prodigy are things that might have been addressed with a slightly larger budget. However, the two lead actors do plenty to infer potential catastrophe and terror rather than letting it happen in front of us.
Thankfully there is far more going for this little movie than not. Prodigy is worth the time.
Prodigy is worth Matinee (***).
Norm’s Rating System: Full Price (****), Matinee (***), VOD (**), Don’t Bother (*)