Directed by: Morgan Matthews – Starring: Asa Butterfield, Rafe Spall, Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Jo Yang, Alex Lawther, Martin McCann
If, like me, you’ve never been called upon to use algebra since you left school, and still break out in a cold sweat at the thoughts of all the hours you spent learning it, then the title of this film probably won’t instil you with confidence. And yes, this movie does have a mathematical theme running through it. Don’t let that put you off though, as even a total maths philistine should enjoy this charming, and heart-warming, flick.
Inspired by the award nominated 2007 documentary Beautiful Young Minds, which was also directed by Matthews, this stars Asa Butterfield as Nathan, a maths prodigy on the Autistic spectrum. With the help of his teacher Mr Humphreys (Spall) he qualifies for the British team at the International Mathematical Olympiad (yes that is a real thing). The competition puts him in numerous situations that he hasn’t had to deal with before, and he finds comfort with fellow competitor Zhang Mei (Yang) which forces him to try and understand the nature of love, and all that goes with it.
Butterfield shines as Nathan, and is definitely one to watch. He really manages to convey the internal torture of the character, and he draws you in from the off. Spall is an excellent foil for him as his acerbic and uncouth maths teacher, who tends to speak his mind no matter how inappropriate. Hawkins is also wonderful as Nathan’s mother, who struggles to understand the logical world of maths that her son is immersed in.
While this might seem like a boring premise on paper, it is actually incredibly engaging. Of course, there are scenes of people doing complex equations (which will serve as a reminder to some as to why they didn’t take mathematical based jobs) but they are not drawn out, and merely serve as a catalyst to move the story along.
Even if you struggle with basic addition and subtraction, you shouldn’t find these scenes too torturous. On the whole, this is really well-,paced and trots along nicely, with the story unfolding quite organically. An incredibly sweet film there are a few things you can see coming a mile away, but they don’t detract from the enjoyment of the tale.
X+Y has a huge feel-good factor, and will leave you with the warm and fuzzies. It may not be big on action, but it is huge on heart, and few people won’t be able to relate to Nathan’s angst, which is of course exacerbated by his autism.
A lovely little film that deserves to be seen, this will give even the most cynical viewer a reason to smile at the end.
In cinemas 13th March