Title – X+Y (2014)
Director – Morgan Matthews (Shooting Bigfoot)
Cast – Asa Butterfield, Sally Hawkins, Rafe Spall, Eddie Marsan, Jo Yang, Martin McCann
Plot – With a mix of autism and Asperger’s young teen Nathan Ellis (Butterfield) finds solace in the world of mathematics and in the support of his single mother Julie (Hawkins) and teacher Martin (Spall). When a chance to represent England at the International Mathematics Olympiad arises, new worlds will be opened up to Nathan as he confronts the world of mathematics and the world of his condition head on.
“Sometimes you have to change your shape… to fit in”
Review by Eddie on 14/09/2015
When you’re looking for one of the feel good movies of the year a film centred around the cut throat world of competitive mathematics and the mind of an autistic boy who lost his beloved father in a fatal car crash doesn’t exactly scream out as a candidate but low and behold documentarian turned feature film director Morgan Matthews X + Y (also known as A Brilliant Young Mind) could well be the feel good film of the year.
Creating a coming of age love story and trial against adversity narrative from his experiences documenting those with autism attending the International Mathematics Olympiad (title of that documentary is Beautiful Young Minds), the nerds version of the Olympics that is really one giant exam, fun right? Matthews showcases an innate ability behind the camera that would suggest his future in the feature film industry is one to get excited about. Matthews handles the films myriad clichés (you’re never in too much doubt about where the story is headed, although the ending subverts expectations) with a deft touch so that the film never feels overly manipulative or even familiar despite its feel good playbook ticking’s off and with a winning cast X + Y delivers equal amounts of smarts, laughs and emotional punches.
Last seen making a mark in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo and long rumoured to be in the final runnings for the newest Spider-Man gig, Asa Butterfield delivers a considered and well put together turn as the “different” Nathan Ellis. It’s not at all an easy role and one that had it been overplayed or underplayed would’ve ruined the picture but Butterfield succeeds with flying colours and his interplay with the films experienced elder statesman in the form of Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan and in particular Rafe Spall create a winning case all round with any scene between Butterfield and Spall either outright hilarious or heart-warmingly sincere.
I know I don’t find maths in any way shape or form exciting but no matter how you feel about the beautiful world of numbers and problem solving X + Y will be a winner for the whole family. With the right amount of wit, intelligence and with an affable likeable cast, X + Y is one of the year’s most enjoyable tales that embraces its clichés and delivers them with a fresh spin meaning that Marshall’s film ads up to an all-round winner.
4 complicated takeaway orders out of 5