x + y

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A boy with an exceptional aptitude for mathematics struggles socially, until a caring teacher helps him realize his full potential — and vice versa.

Year: 2014
Certificate: 12
Director: Morgan Matthews
Starring: Eddie Marsan, Sally Hawkins, Rafe Spall, Martin McCann, Asa Butterfield, Jo Yang, Alexa Davies, Alex Lawther, Jake Davies, Orion Lee

Information Page: https://uk.newonnetflix.info/info/80018615

Let’s be honest – a film about the International Mathematical Olympiad doesn’t sound too enthralling, does it? Now, I want you to forget that aspect of the film and, instead, concentrate on the finer details; “x + y” is, in essence, a story of a young boy growing up and finding love. And a very good one it is too.

The film starts with Nathan (Butterfield) being diagnosed as being “on the spectrum” – having traits of autism, synaesthesia and sensitive to changes in light and patterns. Nathan is autistic and, like my son, he describes himself as having “special powers” – his powers being understanding complex patterns in maths. After a tragic event changes their family life, Nathan’s mum struggles to bond with a young boy who seems rude and disinterested at times. At age 9, Nathan starts receiving tuition from a high school maths teacher, Mr Humphries (Spall), with a view to one day taking part in the International Mathematics Olympiad (IMO). Humphries has multiple sclerosis (MS) and a very dry sense of humour – which Nathan simply doesn’t understand.

Visually, “x + y” is pretty straight forward – it’s a relatively slow-moving comedic drama so it doesn’t need any blockbuster effects, but the few effects that are used work very well. They play on Nathan’s light-sensitivity by making bright lights stand out and merge between each other to signify what he’s seeing when he’s apparently “staring into space”.

Fast forward seven years and we see Nathan, now 16, but still an introverted, shy individual. He’s about to take the exam to see if he can qualify for the British team in the IMO. As the film progresses we see Nathan travelling the world at specialist maths training camps and befriending a Chinese girl; yet all the time still struggling with social interaction and public speaking. Humphries’ MS has worsened but he is still determined to help this young prodigy – along with pursuing his own romantic desires. I watched “x + y” because of my link with autism, however it is as much about MS as it is autism; but, more than both, it is a film about a boy overcoming various struggles and finding love (and, coincidentally, doing a good job of breaking down the assumption that autistic people have no emotion).

You don’t need to worry if high-level maths isn’t your thing as the film only ever shows fleeting parts of the complex problems; instead it concentrates on the character development. That being said, if you are a maths fan then you may get some enjoyment of the parts that you do get shown.

Overall, “x + y” is a heart-warming film with a very good, believable cast. It will have you on an emotional roller coaster – chuckling one minute and empathising with the characters the next. It’s a pleasure to watch and the notes I wrote while watching the film ended with the rather succinct description of: “nice film”.

Have you seen this film? Let us know your opinions in the comments below and of course if there are any films on Netflix UK you want us to review let us know!

About MaFt

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Film and TV fan, creator of New On Netflix (UK, USA, Australia and Canada), dad of two amazing children, code geek and passionate about autism.

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