You know what always makes for good films? Genius misfit kids. And much like this summer’s tepidly-received film Gifted, So B. It is here to warm hearts with kids too smart for their age surrounded by problems too big for childhood. So B. It leans too heavily into schmaltz to become anything of substance, but it tells a sweet, if forgettable, story nonetheless.
Heidi (Talitha Bateman) lives in Reno with her mentally challenged mother (Jessica Collins) and her agoraphobic caretaker, Bernadette (Alfre Woodard). Due to her mother’s handicaps and Bernadette’s unwillingness to go outside, Heidi has mostly been homeschooled, which is fine because she’s incredibly smart, if extremely sheltered to the realities of her situation. When she begins to figure out there’s a whole big world outside of her apartment, she becomes insistent on following the breadcrumbs, much to Bernadette’s dismay and worry.
Bateman is pretty spot on as the talented Heidi. She plays her with a perfect mix of a child simultaneously too mature for her age and exactly her age. In one turn, Heidi is well-spoken, sure of herself, calm, and wearing enough makeup to almost make you believe she’s just a short adult. But emotionally Heidi is still just a kid and often acts out, throwing tantrums and stubbornly refusing to change her mind.
If Bateman’s performance is strong, it’s bogged down by a melodramatic plot. The film feels like a maelstrom of heart-wrenching plot devices. A genius kid. A mentally challenged mother. A compassionate caregiver that also has agoraphobia. A “mean” older gentleman that goes from villain to misunderstood ally. Heidi, for all of her smarts, seems incredibly naive when it comes to her family, shocked at the concept that her mother had any kind of family or life outside of Heidi and Bernadette. By the time Heidi is taking a solo bus trip and literally breaking her mother’s heart, it feels like director Stephen Gyllenhaal is laying it on way too thick. And that’s not even touching on the weird, unnecessary names in the film, so strange it became the title.
So B. It’s strong performances get held back by a weak, overdramatic plot that firmly places it in unremarkable territory.