A Brilliant Young Mind, previously titled X + Y, centers on young Nathan Ellis (Asa Butterfield) who is brilliant and sees his world in numbers, but is unable to relate to people on any kind of emotional or personal level, including his mother (Sally Hawkins), who herself struggles to establish a deep connection with her son. Suffering from autism and the traumatic experience of losing his father in a car crash he was also in, Nathan is taken under the wing of bitter teacher Martin Humphreys (Rafe Spall).

His intelligence in math doesn’t go unnoticed and Nathan is selected to compete in the International Mathematics Olympiad. Flying off to Taipei, Nathan is forced to interact with people and is befriended by fellow Olympiad Zhang Mei (Jo Yang). After coming back to England, Nathan has a hard time coming to terms with feelings he can’t understand because it isn’t quantifiable and learns something he never has before.

Morgan Matthews draws inspiration from his own documentary, Beautiful Young Minds, and brings new meaning to understanding love for someone who can’t quite grasp it. Asa Butterfield continues to prove himself time and time again, but it’s here that his performance informs the audience of his character because Nathan never says a lot, but Butterfield’s body language speaks volumes. The rest of the supporting cast, from Rafe Spall to Sally Hawkins, turn in good performances, all layered and sympathetic.

A Brilliant Young Mind is quiet, thoughtful, although sometimes shows restraint. Its story unfolds well enough, but there are the loosely hanging plot threads and certain characters that don’t get enough attention or enough time to properly open up and flourish. It never loses focus but drags around midway through. However, Morgan Matthews infuses the film with enough emotion, good conversation, and an effective ending that will pull on your heartstrings a bit.


Release Date: September 11, 2015 | Director: Morgan Matthews | Screenwriter: James Graham | Cast: Asa Butterfield, Sally Hawkins, Rafe Spall, Eddie Marsan, Jo Yang, Martin McCann, Alex Lawther | Genre: Drama | MPAA Rating: Not Rated


About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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