X + Y = One good film + one happy film goer.
Heartwarming, engaging and brilliantly acted. Dare I say it? This gets a 4 from me.
I nearly missed this little gem as it had only a week release at my local (Cinema NOT pub).
What’s it about? A socially awkward teenage math prodigy (Asa Butterfield) finds new confidence and new friendships when he lands a spot on the British squad at the International Mathematics Olympiad.
Our story follows a gifted and special young boy named Nathan (That’s my name!) who is diagnosed with autism. His unique preference for patterns soon develops an interest in mathematics leading to a . . . brilliant film.
Director Morgan Matthews and writer James Graham allow the film to move at a slow burning pace as we see Nathan receive his diagnosis. Edward Baker-Close plays young Nathan very well. His outlook and way of thinking makes him appear abrupt and quite blunt.
His honesty not necessarily coming out in the right way and at the right person.
Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) was superb as Nathan’s mother, Julie. Struggling to understand the condition and failing to interact with him in the right way was hard viewing. Innocently asking a young Nathan if she could help with his homework. He looks up at her and simply replies, “You wouldn’t understand. You’re not clever enough”.
Nathan’s autism may only be a particular type but it soon turns him into a social outcast.
Martin McCann (’71) was very good as Nathan’s father. His patience and understanding of Nathan allowed the news to be more of a gift than a curse. However, it isn’t long before an unexpected tragedy comes along.
The story moves forward to a teenage Nathan. Asa Butterfield (Hugo) was excellent. His mannerisms and blunt delivery were well done. You really felt for the lad but also wished he couldn’t be so rude to his mother.
The fact he won’t allow Julie to touch him or even hold her hand was heartbreaking.
Rafe Spall (Life of Pi) was brilliant as Mr Humphreys. An embittered maths teacher donning a cane and popping pills like sweets. Sound familiar?
Spall’s characters does bear a striking resemblance to that of House. His brash comments, deflated ego, bemused attitude.
However, there is a sadness behind Humphreys as we discover he is battling with multiple sclerosis.
His pairing with Nathan was like something out of the Odd Couple. Nathan’s brutally honest comments to Humphreys’ sarcastic and smart ass outlook.
When the pair first meet, Nathan asks, “Why do you walk funny?”. Humphreys’ response; “Why are you so weird?”
Comical but endearing. Humphreys’ failed Olympiad past soon becomes a crucial tool to help Nathan and it isn’t long before the pair work together on achieving the impossible.
Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan) was amusing as the highly competitive and deluded UK team Olympiad leader. Constantly driving the children and desperate to beat China in any capacity (Even jogging and cooking shrimp).
In between training for the Olympiad and dealing with new surroundings, Nathan strikes another friendship with a Chinese Olympiad, Zhang Mei.
An impressive debut performance from Jo Yang. She had good chemistry with Butterfield and the pair are adorable together.
It was brilliantly handled and delicately deals with Nathan’s autism perfectly. From his handling of social situations to how he perceives certain colours and light.
Jake Davies (Cyberbully) was excellent as Luke; a fellow Olympiad who also has autism.
It was an interesting and harrowing comparison showing the different scales of the autism spectrum.
Luke’s attempts at interaction were harsh viewing. Scornful and arrogant, one moment. Desperate to make friends, the next.
Alex Lawther (The Imitation Game) played the smug bully Isaac well. His constant put downs on Luke were all too realistic. A silly boy who is aware of his condition but still does everything to throw obstacles in Luke’s path.
The mathematics get a little mind-numbing BUT luckily the focus is always on the characters.
I just wished a little more time was spent on Humphreys’ story line. His battle with his painkiller addiction and a possible blossoming romance made for good viewing in between Nathan’s new ventures.
We got to see him fight depression but also his acceptance of MS. As the film came to a close, I felt his sub plot was left a little too open. You generally get the idea on how it was going to unfold. BUT two more minutes, just to round it all off, would have been a bit better.
Apart from that little niggle and the pace slightly dipping in the odd part, I was engrossed, engaged and interested.
The closing moments, dare I admit it, had a little tear in the eye. Someone must have sprayed something in the cinema.
It’s charming, funny, endearing and brilliantly acted.
A perfect formula for any film and certainly worth your time.