“Gigi & Nate” starts with a not-so-surprising accident that leaves its protagonist in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. No spoilers here. You get this information from the trailer. After we see a cute little capuchin monkey (played by Allie) being saved from an unsafe environment, writer David Hudgins shows us a well-mannered, happy Nate, spending the fourth of July with his family. With an extraordinary life thus far and a bright future ahead, Nate has the time of his life.
The movie starts off well intentioned with Irish director Nick Hamm (brother of actor Jon Hamm who executive produced this film) showing you that Nate (Charlie Rowe) is paralyzed after the accident. He focuses on how much Nate has changed. At the hospital, waiting to hear how he is, Nate’s parents, Claire (Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden) and Dan (Jim Belushi) are told to prepare for the worst. They hear Nate could be looking at anything from hearing loss to death. So Dan and Claire begin to talk about who Nate was, not knowing who he’ll be.
It’s four years later. Nate becomes highly depressed. From the accident, he got an infection that made his brain swell. Nate took a simple leap off a cliff, shoving lake water into his sinuses. Frighteningly, he contracted meningitis from that. All he did was jump into a lake and his whole life changed. His family does their best to make him comfortable, but he’s desperately unhappy to the point of attempting suicide. No amount of therapy or time is helping him improve mentally or physically.
Remember that darling monkey from the start of the film? This is where she comes in.
His desperate parents contact a company who have service animals that help people like Nate. They are most needed when people are at the lowest points in their lives. Claire hopes that having a service animal will help bring some light into his world. Nate doubts the idea but then meets Gigi. He’s immediately in love.
This will be Gigi’s first placement after being rescued. She had been in a terribly run petting zoo and is now in Nate’s life, still being exploited to a degree but happy in what she does for her, dare I say ‘captor.’ No. I’m not going in that direction. Nate and Gigi are both delighted with things.
They’re best of friends and now go everywhere together. She has a lot of freedom, plenty of food and water and, outside of Nate, plenty of people who love and care for her. To gain her trust, they give her little scoops of peanut butter. This is to earn her trust and reward her.
But then, it makes sense that all this sweetness has to be counterbalanced with a bit of sourness. Yes. When you think things are too perfect, Chloe Gaines enters (Welker White). Chloe is the president of the Tennessee chapter of the AFAP or Association for Animal Protection. She sees Nate in the grocery store and is appalled that the primate is being used in the way she is, nor should they be around food for people. Chloe files a complaint against Nate. From this comes court scenes, protests and ugliness. From this point on, it’s a fight for Nate to keep his little friend, believing she needs him as much as he needs her. The story ends with Nate in college and in a new home.
I liked “Gigi & Nate” but probably would have given it a higher score had it not been so predictable. It’s emotional and a great story, but as you watch, you’ll practically be able to write the following lines yourself. What you’ll love most is that darling monkey, loving everything she does for her owner, seemingly getting something out of it that improves who she is, as well as everyone around her. I’d recommend this for a cable watch.
Gigi & Nate from Roadside Attractions
Directed by: Nick Hamm, Elliot Davis
Written by: David Hudgins
Starring: Charlie Rowe, Marcia Gay Harden, Jim Belushi and Diane Ladd,
Rated: PG-13 (Language|Some Thematic Material)
Runtime: 1h 54m