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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Movie Review - A Brilliant Young Mind

A Brilliant Young Mind (2015)
Starring Asa Butterfield, Rafe Spall, Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Jo Yang, Martin McCann, and Alex Lawther
Directed by Morgan Matthews

Up front, I think I must say that the film A Brilliant Young Mind found itself at a disadvantage for this reviewer seeing as how I recently saw the Broadway production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.  Both tackle an incredibly similar premise - a young boy on the autism spectrum loses a parent, fails to connect with his remaining parent, and, thanks to the help of a teacher, turns to the patterns in math to become more communicative with society - but seeing something unfold live (and unfold live in a rather ingeniously staged way) will always hold the upper hand and that's certainly the case here.  A Brilliant Young Mind is very well acted by the entire cast, but it lacks the emotional gravitas that I wanted and it obviously desired to achieve.

Asa Butterfield is Nathan Ellis, an autistic teen who had a strong connection with his father Michael (Martin McCann) only to have the relationship shattered by a horrible car accident when Nathan was younger.  With his father dead, Nathan's mom Julie (Sally Hawkins) finds her son distant and unwilling to emotionally interact with her, but she also recognizes his innate ability with mathematics.  Sensing this strength, she enrolls Nathan (played at this age by Edward Baker-Close) in a few specialized math classes under the tutelage of Martin Humphreys (Rafe Spall), a bit of a curmudgeonly teacher who is dealing with his own medical problem of an onset of multiple sclerosis.  Under Martin's teachings, Nathan blossoms intellectually (though not particularly socially) and Martin pushes Nathan to try out for a prestigious worldwide mathematics olympiad which forces Nathan to step out of his comfort zone and work with teens his own age.

As mentioned, A Brilliant Young Mind is well-acted and that's undoubtedly one of the reasons I found myself interested in the story.  Young Butterfield is compelling, Rafe Spall gives the film a nice comedic touch, and Sally Hawkins continues to be one of the more underrated actresses of this era.  However, their performances aren't enough to boost the desired emotional impact I wanted and didn't get from the film.  I wanted the chasm between mother and son to really hit home, but this key aspect of the story didn't make it there for me.  Once again, I do think the film was at a disadvantage as I simply saw a better telling of a similar story a short time ago.  That said, had the film achieved the pivotal and necessary dramatic moments, it still would've felt like a successful cinematic experience.  As it stands now, A Brilliant Young Mind is just a little better than fair.

The RyMickey Rating:  C+

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