A Brilliant Young Mind Review: Old Story, New Twists

Photo Credit:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEt7UhVfJ2M

Coming of age stories about awkward young men trying to make their way through the world are easy to come by. But then come ones like A Brilliant Young Mind, or X + Y in the UK (which is frankly a much better title), that subvert your expectations and turn into something beautiful.

We find out early in the film that Nathan (Asa Butterfield) is somewhere on the autism spectrum. The word “Asperger’s” is never said, but it’s pretty much understood that that’s what Nathan and his family are dealing with. He has trouble making connections with people and struggles to even feel human touch. But he is really good at math. Like, really good.

With the help of his teacher (Rafe Spall) and the support of his mother (Sally Hawkins), Nathan is chosen to represent the UK in the International Mathematics Olympiad. He travels to Taiwan to exercise his mathematics abilities, but he also gets his world expanded by meeting other people with similar interests.

It’s not the most original story, but Butterfield excels in his role, performing comparably to Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. These are two very different actors that give two very different performances, but end up with the same result: making us connect with those it can be most difficult with. Hawkins adds another home run to her growing list of them as well as a single mother unable to reach her son.

For most of its runtime, the film feels like your typical prodigy story, but the ending reveals what kind of film this is supposed to be. Everything comes together in a way that is truly inspiring and unexpected.

A Brilliant Young Mind gets a lot of credit not only for its brutally honest portrayal of Asperger’s syndrome, but also its resistance to limit sufferers to academic greatness alone. Even if its methods aren’t the most original, that’s quite a feat to pull off. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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