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1+1 = LOVE?

By Jess Fenton
5th April 2015

I’m no doctor, but imagine my surprise when I learnt from watching the film ‘X+Y’ that love can cure autism - or a least help you get over it or something. I don’t know, but I think even Jenny McCarthy might have an issue with this one. Let’s delve a little deeper...

Nathan (Asa Butterfield) is a teenager that falls somewhere on the spectrum, giving him a passion for numbers and patterns and a great desire to compete in the International Mathematics Olympiad (IMO). His mother Julie (Sally Hawkins) not only battles through each day unable to reach her son emotionally or intellectually, but must endure this while also suffering the depressive effects of losing her husband years earlier. Nurturing Nathan’s gifts the best way she knows how, the pair embrace Nathan’s unorthodox maths tutor Martin Humphreys (Rafe Spall), who not only helps Nathan achieve his goal but also becomes an unlikely friend to both. Martin too was a maths prodigy but unfortunately let his MS diagnosis get the better of him. Once selected for the IMO team, Nathan travels to Taiwan for a training camp where he encounters new experiences and challenges, the most important of which: a special friendship with Zhang Mai (Jo Yang).


Inspired by a true family depicted in his 2007 documentary ‘Beautiful Young Minds’, director Morgan Matthews is making his feature film debut with ‘X+Y’. Obviously a passion project in term of the story, Matthews’ foray into the world of fiction has sadly taken a wrong turn trying to make these characters extraordinary and give reasons for being the way that they are, when instead he should have trusted his documentarian instincts and let these people be ordinary, therefore extraordinary.

Quite frankly, I found the winding backstories distracting from the real emotional connections happening in front of our eyes. More than anything I wanted the story to focus more of the mother - how that woman managed to get up every morning being a single mother to a son she can’t connect with, isn’t given any signs of physical or emotion affection, who’s told daily by the one she loves that she’s stupid and can’t do anything right, and then when she finally finds a “friend” he himself is a ticking time-bomb who can’t have sex. Geez, I’m exhausted just writing about it and just want to cry for her. Where’s that movie!? I don’t care about maths. Nathan learning that he’s not the smartest person who ever lived and garners some humility deserves a slow clap and *gasp* love does not cure autism.

‘X+Y’ hits a lot of emotional cue points and is held up by three great performances, but ultimately the film’s solution did not match its working.

RELEASE DATE: 09/04/2015
RUN TIME: 1h 51m
CAST: Sally Hawkins
Asa Butterfield
Rafe Spall
Eddie Marsan
Jo Yang
DIRECTOR: Morgan Matthews
WRITER: James Graham
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