Prodigy (2017) (a film review by Mark R. Leeper).

The government is holding a girl, age nine, who has the mental powers of Hannibal Lector plus some that Lector never had. A psychologist is brought in to solve the riddle of the super-intelligent but dangerous girl. There are very strong performances from Richard Neil as the psychologist and especially Savannah Liles as the child. The film ‘Prodigy’ keeps to its low budget with very limited locations. Alex Haughey and Brian Vidal share writing and directing credits.

Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10.

The Government has a secret. They are holding someone as an illegal prisoner. The prisoner is Ellie (played impressively by Savannah Liles). She is a nine year-old girl with flaming red hair and freckles to match. She also has the intellect and mental powers of a Hannibal Lector and perhaps even more. The government keeps her is a very high security cell while the decision is being made just how to handle this superbly dangerous little girl. Their latest attempt is to bring in psychologist Jimmy Fonda (Richard Neil).

He is probably the government’s last chance to control Ellie before her captors decide her threat must be eliminated. What unfolds is a drama of dialog between the girl and the psychologist as Jimmy digs in to solve the mystery at the heart of Ellie’s psychosis. His technique involves standard tests like the Rorschach test. He is obsessed by chess and carries his chess set where he goes. But most important is his therapy is just plain talk trying to bring the young girl out of the monster.

This basically is the story of a psychologist trying to cure his patient. There are certainly some Science Fiction touches added to the story to make it more engaging to make the film nominally Science Fiction, but the accessories are really just add-ons to the story. Deep down the film ‘Prodigy’ is a lot like that of ‘Equus’ or ‘Good Will Hunting’.

The causes of Ellie’s psychological kinks are really MacGuffin. This case there is a genre twist to the story to give a Science Fiction fan audience something to think about and some plot twists to tighten tension. The story centres on the team that holds the prisoner. There is one woman, Olivia (played by Jolene Andersen) and several men.

Olivia is sympathetic and empathetic toward Ellie and the men, other than Jimmy, are each somewhere between apathetic or openly hostile toward Ellie. It is up to Jimmy and Olivia to solve the puzzle of Ellie’s personality before the approaching deadline.

Savannah Liles, age twelve, is older than the nine years she is playing, but she does not seem that much older. Still, she does a good job of tying the story together well and gives a good performance.

I rate ‘Prodigy’ a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

Mark R. Leeper

© Mark R. Leeper 2018

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