This film, shown as part of the Bath Film Festival is the first feature film of documentary film maker Morgan Matthews. It is based on a documentary he made in 2006 called ‘Beautiful Young Minds’ about the British team in the International Maths Olympiad. This fictional version has the same theme but is able to explore the emotions and bring characters to the fore in a different way.
Nathan is the young man on the autistic spectrum who struggles to connect or interact with people. One of the people he pushes away is his mother who, like him, is mourning the loss of husband and father who was killed in a car crash. Nathan prefers the world of Mathematics. In an attempt to help him, a tutor is found. Mr Humpheys was, himself, part of the British Olympiad team in the past but he has his own issues. The unconventional teacher and the boy trying to hide from the world come together and Nathan heads off to Taiwan to compete for a place in the British team.
The big rivals are the Chinese. Zhang Mei is the niece of the Chinese team coach. Her effect on Nathan provides a centre point for the film and shows how human emotions confuse him. Their growing relationship and how this teaches him about connecting with other people is a truly affecting part of the story. I enjoyed the idea that, in their normal schools, the maths prodigies were considered weird but in the British team, they were the same as everyone else.
The cast included Sally Hawkins as the mother, Asa Butterfield as Nathan, Rafe Spall as his teacher and Eddie Marsan as the coach of the British team. What a turn out of British talent this was!
‘X + Y’ is now in my hinterland. What’s in yours?