Published on February 23rd, 2015 | by Allan Brown0
GFF 2015: X+Y Review
Movie Review: X+Y (2015)
Running Time: 148 mins
Director: Morgan Matthews
Writers: James Graham
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Rafe Spall, Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Jo Yang, Alex Lawther
Having cemented his position as a gifted documentary film-maker in a career which spans more than a decade, Morgan Matthews (Shooting Bigfoot) confidently makes the transition into features with the impressive, unconventional, coming of age drama; X+Y.
When Nathan (Asa Butterfield) – a teenager dealing with a high functioning autism spectrum disorder (Asperger’s syndrome) – witnesses the death of his father in a tragic car accident, his condition and symptoms understandably intensify. Despite his grieving mother’s (Sally Hawkins) gallant efforts to reconnect with her son, Nathan begins to shut down, detaching himself both socially and emotionally from the people around him.
For Nathan, some solace is found in numbers and mathematics, and as he comes to excel at the subject, the gentle guidance of a wayward teacher, Mr Humphreys (Rafe Spall), helps steer Nathan on to a path of possible greatness. Before long, Nathan’s talents secure him a place on the British National team at the International Mathematics Olympiad (IMO), were under the watchful supervision of squad leader Richard (Eddie Marsan); the teenage maths prodigies embark on trip to a Taiwanese training camp, in preparation for the forthcoming competition at Trinity College, Cambridge.
Its central message along with its kaleidoscope of warm and engaging characters, lift what could have easily been a tired formula driven narrative, into something far more interesting and unexpected.
What develops is a sensitive heartfelt character drama that explores the journey and comprises both Nathan and his mother make in an attempt to readjust their lives, as Nathan moves from boyhood into adulthood.
At its core, X+Y is a heart-warming journey of self-discovery and love, and although it packs in its fair share of clichés, its central message along with its kaleidoscope of warm and engaging characters – not least from Asa Butterfield who stuns in the lead role -, lift what could have easily been a tired formula driven narrative, into something far more interesting and unexpected.
Sally Hawkin’s provides a stellar turn as Julie, the protective mother facing the difficulty of letting her son go. Her performance is handled with subtlety and her journey is both beautiful and incredibly touching to watch unfold.
The every reliable Eddie Marsan and Rafe Spall both offer noteworthy performances, and although the character of Mr Humphreys with his comedic quips feels rather misplaced – at times – with the tone of the film, Rafe Spall’s fun portrayal injects a lighter note to an otherwise greyer palate.
Its also worth nothing that Matthews handling of the narrative and its many themes are beautifully balanced throughout, offering a fresh cinematic perspective to the human condition of Autism. Instead of presenting Nathan as unique, forcing the audience to feel sympathetic to his condition, Matthews’s litters the narrative with characters dealing with their own set of troubles. This empathetic approach presents Nathan as just another complicated individual, in a world full of complicated people, and as a result, it stands as one of the films strongest assets.
Summary: X+Y is all things sad, charming, uplifting and incredibly moving, but it is in Morgan Matthews’s fresh and astute approach to the subject - along with his incredible cast - that sets this coming of age drama above from the rest.