Gilly Hopkins happens to witness the unkindness of this world after she finds herself thrown from one foster home to another. But to be objective, it’s Gilly who rejects every help she could have gotten to fix her still young but troubled life. But all that changes when she finally meets Maime Trotter (Kathy Bates) whose strong personality and determination sees in the 12-year-old girl is something Gilly fails to see in the first place.
The beginning of THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS was harsh enough to show Gilly (Sophie Nélisse) as an unpleasant young girl who is as angry as she could get: she is unhappy about her life, does not accept her new foster mom, fights in school while she hopes her mother, Courtney Hopkins (Julia Stiles) will take her back home. However, nothing is so easy as it seemed so in the beginning, as Gilly, first challenged by her new teacher, Miss Harris, (Octavia Spencer) who does not acknowledge Gilly’s attempt to fail the class.
The second time Gilly is tested by Rajeem (Sammy Pignalosa), who again, does not behave the way Gilly expects him to. As we don’t know much about her past experience in the foster homes, Gilly, who in the beginning appears to be unkind, changes significantly as she realizes that the happiness and comfort of life can be brought by Maime Trotter is something worth considering. This is when Gilly allows herself to be her true self, improve her grades, make friends and be happy.
It’s however intriguing to know that as soon as the protagonist character is introduced to us, indeed it’s expected not to be an easy one to accept. The screenplay or even the novel by Katherine Paterson where Gilly Hopkins is described as a troubled teenage girl gives a hint to the viewer that she will at some point change herself to a better way. And that fact, despite being predictable, still makes you to kind of look forward to that. Because, to be rejected by her own mother, abandoned by the injustices of life itself does not worth ruining your own life. And that, obviously, is something Gilly will learn when she sees how Maime Trotter cares about her as if Gilly were her own child.
In conclusion, Stephen Herek’s THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS should not be accepted as a regular and predictable teenage movie by all means. This movie, unlike many others you have seen has a good meaning, lessons we could learn from and a true example that sometimes life is not as bad as you see it, because what you see is not what is seen by many. Yes, Gilly Hopkins might not have 20/20 vision in terms of life, but soon she will develop a perfect sight that will help her to be more mature in no time. And just because of that it is worth growing with Gilly throughout the film. And that is the exact feeling you will experience if you get the real point of it.