Monday, September 7, 2015

A Brilliant Young Mind













As autism sheds its stigma and diagnoses keep tumbling out of the closet, stories about people on the spectrum are starting to multiply too, and for every brilliant work of imaginative empathy like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, there are bound to be at least a couple of clayfooted duds like A Brilliant Young Mind. If it weren’t for the considerable talent of its principal actors, there would be nothing noteworthy about this film. Unfortunately, even they can only occasionally breathe life into this pastiche of tired tropes.

Nathan Ellis (Asa Butterfield) is good enough at math to be a finalist for the International Mathematics Olympiad, or, as the contestants call it, the IMO. But he has almost no social skills and no friends at all, unless you count the adults who cheer him on. His effortlessly reassuring and entertaining father (Martin McCann) died in front of his eyes when Martin was a boy (cue theme #1: Will Nathan ever be able to grieve for his father?), leaving him with a resolutely cheery mother who cannot find a way to connect with him. (Theme #2: will Nathan ever hug his mother? Will he hold her hand?) Nathan’s other main ally is his surly math teacher, Martin Humphreys (Rafe Spall), a foul-mouthed underachiever with a heart of gold who was, as Nathan is informed by the teachers’ headmaster, “a bit of a math whiz when he was younger.” (Theme #3: what went wrong with Mr. Humphreys, and can it be put right?) Read the rest in Slant Magazine

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