“A Brilliant Young Mind”
Nathan (Asa Butterfield) is an unusual boy. He has the knack for mathematics, finding solace in math. In fact; he sees math in just about everything he looks at; buildings, highway overpasses and hallways are turned in his mind into mathematical equations. Nathan has been diagnosed with Autism, and Nathan’s parents (Sally Hawkins, Martin McCann) are dealing with Nathan as best they can. Sometimes the only way to get him to come out of his shell is just to act silly with their son. It’s something that Nathan’s father has an affinity for, and they share a special bond over it. It’s a family that is struggling to find its ground, but they seem to be managing. It all changes when Nathan’s dad dies in a car accident and Nathan soon retreats further and further into himself. Now Nathan’s mom is at her wit’s end, sad over the loss of her husband and the withdrawal of her son.
That’s when Professor Martin Humphrey (Rafe Spall) enters the picture. He is a math teacher, who at one time showed some potential but that all stopped when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He has just about given up on living as his day to day struggles seem overwhelming. Martin sees that Nathan has a special talent and fully believes that Nathan could qualify for the British Math Olympic team. Nathan’s mom sees some hope in this quest, all the while worrying that her son might fail and never recover. The big question is; could Nathan’s weak social skills keep him from succeeding or is his talent for math just too much to keep him off the team?
This is a marvelous film that overcomes a slightly schmaltzy script with terrific performances by Butterfield, Hawkins and Spall. The story starts to move when Martin and Nathan began bonding over each other’s love of math. Nathan finds a father figure/mentor in his teacher, and Martin now has a reason to get up in the morning. It’s a story about overcoming the odds and finding that the world isn’t quite as scary and difficult when you are willing to reach out to people who like and care about you. To the credit of director Morgan Matthews and writer James Graham, they treat the character of Nathan with a warmth and understanding, making the audience care for this special boy and hope that he succeeds.
Asa Butterfield is the reason to see this film. He does a marvelous job in a part where his character rarely talks. He uses his physical skills to create the wonder and emotion as his character starts opening up to the outside world. We see the delight in his eyes when he solves a problem. He has great screen presence, and he works well with Sally Hawkins, and especially Rafe Spall. Hawkins gives a touching and stunning performance as the put-upon mom that hopes that she has done everything she can for her boy to succeed. I loved Rafe Spall in the role of the weary teacher who’s just tired of dealing what life has given him. There is a wonderful scene near the end of the film that Butterfield and Spall share on the screen together. The scene plays out perfectly, and both actors show their love and respect for each other in their performance.
“A Brilliant Young Mind” is a moving film about finding your place in the world. It might be a little scary and overwhelming at times, but life deserves the effort. It’s a winning film that uses the strong performances of its leads to make a film that is well worth seeing. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
“A Brilliant Young Mind” is playing in Atlanta exclusively at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema
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