X + YCultureCinemaMovie reviews
“Beauty is truth, and truth is beauty. Therefore, mathematics must be the most beautiful thing in the world”, so says Eddie Marsan. Or, if the memory of maths exams induces cold sweats and mild heart palpitations, mathematics represents abject horror. It comes as a surprise then that X + Y, the debut feature by BAFTA-winning documentarian Morgan Matthews, is as engaging and affecting as it proves to be.
Asa Butterfield plays Nathan, afflicted with autism but with a prodigious gift for mathematics. His world is constructed around patterns, sequences and numbers, but he cannot express himself emotionally or affectionately, the repercussions of which take a continuous toll on his widowed mother (played with real heart by Sally Hawkins). Rafe Spall is a joy as Nathan’s troubled yet witty mentor, afflicted with multiple sclerosis, providing congruence between his physical hindrance and Nathan’s emotional deficiencies.
The film follows Nathan as he enters the Mathematics Olympiad and journeys to Taipei, where new experiences and relationships promise to reconfigure the way he responds to and interacts with the world. While at times X + Y appears a touch too reminiscent of a made-for-TV “human drama” feature, it succeeds in illustrating the trials and tribulations of living with autism. We easily sympathise with Hawkins as a single mother pining for the merest open reciprocation of love from her son.
The film expertly balances a shade of lightheartedness without appearing glib alongside weighty counterpoints, such as issues with authority and, in one particularly affecting scene, the traumatic psychological impact of struggling to live up to heady expectations of success.
This is a heartwarming and important film that exposes the hard realities of living with disability and the fact that, no matter how explicable the world might appear to be through logical reasoning, love remains the most unsolvable formula of all.
X + Y is released nationwide on 13th March 2015.
Watch the trailer for X + Y here: