"The minds of math and science geniuses have long fascinated the
makers of crowd-pleasing narrative features, which is curious, as the
complexities that fascinate those minds are antithetical to the
feelings-first bounce of popular filmmaking. The movies, having settled
into candied naturalism, already struggle to suggest interiority, even
of characters whose drift of thought is simple — how, then, to lay bare
for us the step-by-step breakthroughs of an autistic kid solving an
equation?" writes Alan Scherstuhl.
|Asa Butterfield as Nathan Ellis|
In his superior British drama A Brilliant Young Mind, director Morgan Matthews (a documentarian making his fiction-film debut) endeavors to show us something of what synesthesia might feel like. Nathan (Hugo's Asa Butterfield), a teen math whiz, stares at wafer-flat street lights that haze and swim over restless, disorienting imagery, some really there before him and some edging in from elsewhere in the brain. You'll likely tense up, knowing that if the kid drifts off something awful might happen. That's about the only fresh technique the filmmakers invent — otherwise, they leave the mysteries of the brain to their actors, which is probably just as well. When Nathan stands before his math genius peers, grooving through a theoretical problem, Butterfield's performance is enough — lord knows we don't need the camera to spin around his head to tell us he's thinking.
A Brilliant Young Mind Official Trailer 1 (2015) - Asa Butterfield Movie HD
So, unlike its hero, A Brilliant Young Mind can't convincingly show its work. (Late in the movie, Nathan's coach says his equation-solving has "rare beauty" but is "unpredictable" and somewhat baroque, all of which comes as news.) But the kind of drama that movies are good at is very good here indeed. Butterfield plays Nathan as brusque and shy, incapable at first of opening up to the world or to the mother (Sally Hawkins) who lives in awed fear of him — she apologizes, relentlessly, any time she seems to have bugged him, and her voice frays into a ragged toughness as she orders Chinese food for him: The kid needs his meal's menu number to be a prime, and it must have exactly nine prawns — he connects with numbers, not people, especially since the death of his father some years before.
Source: New Times Broward-Palm Beach and Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie FilmsChannel (YouTube)