A brilliant young mind

The 2007 BBC documentary Beautiful young minds centred on the International Mathematical Olympiad. Many of the young mathematicians featured in the film had a form of autism. Now, director Morgan Matthews has now filmed a fiction version of his own film, based on one of the participants we meet in the documentary. Only the names have been changed. Nathan (Edward Baker-Close) is a young boy diagnosed with a mild form of autism that is making it hard for him to understand and connect to people. But Nathan seems to connect better with his dad Michael (Martin McCann) than with his mom Julie (Sally Hawkins). One day Michael is killed in a terrible car accident with Nathan sitting beside him. And Nathan puts even more distance between himself and Julie. Years later, when Nathan is a teenager (now played by Asa Butterfield), Mr. Humphreys (Rafe Spall), a teacher who has multiple sclerosis, enrolls Nathan to compete with the British team at the International Mathematical Olympiad in Taipei, Taiwan. The team’s leader is a colorful character named Richard (played by equally colorful actor Eddie Marsan). In Taipei, Nathan nervously meets his team mates. He does not really connect with any of them, and the film gives them too much importance with unnecessary, boring sub-plots. But at least there are no bullies making life difficult for Nathan. That cliché would have ruined the whole film. While Julie and Mr. Humphreys are falling in love, Nathan meets Zhang Mei (Jo Yang), a young Chinese girl. The two become inseparable. The film that promises to be a simple tear-jerker, turns out to be a better film than I expected. Asa Butterfield gives a sensitive and controlled performance. For Nathan, maths are easy, it is people, relationships and emotions he finds difficult. At the end, with Julie’s help, Nathan solves the equation and it is beautifully done.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

A brilliant young mind

Directed by:
Morgan Matthews
Screenplay by:
James Graham
Inspired by Matthews’s
documentary Beautiful young minds
Asa Butterfield
Rafe Spall
Sally Hawkins
Jo Yang
Eddie Marsan
Martin McCann
111 min.
Rated Parental Guidance

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