X+Y is a bittersweet sentimental tale of interlocking awkwardness that centres on Asa Butterfield’s genius. He’s a maths mastermind who enters into the International Maths Olympiad for United Kingdom, despite his social awkwardness. At first, Nathan Ellis (Asa Butterfield) is reluctant to even be associated with the concept, but soon warms to the idea of being one of the best mathematicians in the world.
Director, Morgan Matthews, spent a lot of time researching neurodevelopment disorders (Autism, Asperger’s) to be able to show how they change the lives of young people in many different ways. From an early point in his life, it was clear that Nathan was awkward around social environments, becoming obsessed with order and strict recurring patterns. The character is played to give a genuine understanding of how this affects Nathan’s life and the ability he has. Mr Humphrey’s (Rafe Spall) plays blundering maths teacher, providing a fantastic performance as a keen motivator for Nathan. Sally Hawkins plays an excellent role as Nathan’s devoted mother attempting to hide her anxiety about her son’s isolation. Instead, having to put on a brave face and realise she may never receive the love and affection she expects from him. Eddie Marsden is on hand to play the cheerful and assured group leader, escorting the geniuses to the Taiwan play-offs and Cambridge finals. Nathan isn’t alone at the Olympiad trials in Taiwan, team United Kingdom are brilliant, with “beautiful minds”, but are also competitive, self-centred and socially awkward.
Matthews has created a very likeable, heart warming and uplifting film with many laugh out loud moments. The film provides a poignant and sensitive message to its viewers about Nathan and many others who go through the same experiences as he does.
Words by Bill Edgar