In the lead of this not-quite-a-kid’s film, and not-quite-adult-fare, Sophie Nélisse (The Book Thief) does a great job with her role, whipsawing through emotions and scenes. But it is really Kathy Bates (The Boss), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), and Glenn Close (Guardians of the Galaxy) that steal this movie. And that is true despite a cute kid bouncing around the edges in relative newcomer Zachary Hernandez.
The reason for the odd focus pull is mostly Paterson’s (Bridge to Terabithia) script, which is acceptable, but not great. He jumps through scenes and time, I suspect trying to squeeze in the entire book upon which it is based. Despite the uneven nature, it does have several moments and one brilliant scene (with Close in the Principal’s office) that keeps it all moving along well enough.
The overall impression is a bit more after-school television than director Herek’s other work (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure), though perhaps that is the influence of spending too much time back in TV-land these past years. For a rainy afternoon, or with a young tween to entertain, Gilly Hopkins is certainly a good choice. However, you may want to seek out something else if it is just adults in the room unless you’re looking for just a light distraction.