Can a child prodigy lead a normal life? Are their supreme gifts primarily the product of nature or nurture? This is the thesis behind The World's Cleverest Child and Me, a cheerfully entertaining documentary from Channel 4.
Guided by affable reporter Mark Dolan, our journey begins in Seattle. That's where 10-year old Adora Svitak has successfully built her own literary empire. She's written hundreds of short stories, reads two or three novels each day, and teaches literature around the world. We see her pitching her skills and services to Microsoft in the boardroom, teaching students from a streaming video studio in her basement, signing books for her global family of fans, and conducting an acclaimed speech during the TED Talks forum.
Possessing a superior intellect for any age, and juggling a packed schedule that would prove damagingly stressful for most, Adora handles her notoriety with tremendous grace and calm. Her parents are wholly supportive, but not overly intrusive. Overall, her activities seem entirely driven by a pure love for learning and sharing the written word.
In Kuala Lumpur, 9-year old Adi Putra is touted as a mathematical genius and the world's youngest business magnet. He's revived ancient mathematical formulas, and invented more than a few equations of his own. He's also the face behind a brand of pills that claims to boost brain power. Unlike Aodra, Adi's entourage includes not his parents, but an agent and a special assistant. Seemingly shy and withdrawn, his mathematical skills are undeniably impressive, though it's difficult to determine to what extent the business is the sole result of his own ambitions.
In nearby Singapore, 8-year old world memory champion and chemistry master Ainan Celeste Cawley. We witness him in the process of setting a new world record as he recalls a string of more than 500 random numbers with stunning speed and precision. Through it all, he seems to take his extraordinary accomplishments in stride. In fact, his father seems to crave and savor the fruits of his labor more than Ainan himself.
The three children profiled in The World's Cleverest Child and Me possess awe-inspiring gifts. The real revelations in the film, however, lie in the examination of the parental forces at play behind each of them.