MOVIE: A BRILLIANT YOUNG MIND
STARRING: ASA BUTTERFIELD; SALLY HAWKINS; RAFE SPALL; EDDIE MARSAN; JO YANG
DIRECTED BY: MORGAN MATTHEWS
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
2015 is becoming the year in cinema where being a math and science genius is cool again. With films like Ridley Scott’s The Martian or Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs arriving soon, there is still a passion out there for stories about really smart people. So, here comes a smaller, independent film—A Brilliant Young Mind, which deals with being smart on a scholastic level. It’s about a young, awkward boy named Nathan (Asa Butterfield). He is told at a young age that he is a special kind of smart, slightly autistic, but brilliant when it comes to math. After a traumatic car accident takes his father’s life, Nathan is left with his loving mother, Julie (Sally Hawkins), his odd social skills, and a passion for numbers which leads him to the International Mathematics Olympiad. Yet, at the core of it all, A Brilliant Young Mind is a gentle film that elegantly searches for the answers of loss and love. It is a winning formula.
Director Morgan Matthews does an impressive job of keeping his narrative consistent. The pace switches between observant and dramatic, as the camera constantly follows Nathan through his struggles. He is quiet, in a shy way, always distant from others in school and with his mother. They both have been affected forever by the horrific car accident. Nathan got along with, laughed with, and trusted his father. His mother, on the other hand, cannot seem to garner an invite into Nathan’s comfort zone. It is not until Nathan’s teacher, Martin Humphreys (Rafe Spall, Prometheus) shows him a patch to the Math Olympiads that Nathan begins to understand the math of love and forgiveness.
The shining achievement of this film is the performances from the entire cast, especially Hawkins. The Blue Jasmine actress plays her role with the patient grace, like a mother waiting for the love of her son to come around. Nathan’s meal at the Chinese restaurant must be a prime number and have a prime number of dumplings. You can see her anxiety ramp up, because her struggle is real. She does everything in her heart so that Nathan can be happy. When Nathan leaves for China to prepare for the Olympiads with the British team, it is a cold farewell for a mother who loves him deeply.
When Nathan is in China, his interaction with his teammates forces him to open up a little. The friendship and bond he creates with a girl on the Chinese team, Zhang Mei (Jo Yang), that will make Nathan question if there is a math equation to solve the feelings of love. What he finds is that there is no answer for the feelings he is having. It is something we are born with.
A Brilliant Young Mind is one of the kindest, sweetest films of the year. Nathan’s journey gives viewers a chance to cheer for the shy kid who struggles with social skills. Although it begins to feel lengthy in pace, there is genuine caring from all involved that will keep you engaged and touch your heart. The math in A Brilliant Young Mind just adds up.
Written By: Leo Brady