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X+Y – Review


Release Date: 13 March 2015
Director: Morgan Matthews
Writer: James Graham
Cast: Asa Butterfield - Rafe Spall - Sally Hawkins



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Posted March 19, 2015 by

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X+Y Review:

Morgan Matthews’ 2015 comedy/drama addresses the challenges and beauties of autism, focusing on a socially awkward teenage math prodigy, Nathan (Asa Butterfield). For Nathan, who was diagnosed with being “on the spectrum” and a mild case of autism at a fairly young age, connecting with others around him, including his mother Julie (Sally Hawkins), is a struggle. Instead, he finds comfort in a world which he can comprehend and which has meaning; the world of numbers. This is aided by his private lessons with secondary school teacher Martin Humphreys (Rafe Spall), who he seems to develop a rather humorous relationship with. He drives Nathan to take part in the International Maths Olympiad (IMO), where, for the first time, he is in close proximity with other children, alike and unlike himself. It is his trip to the IMO in Taiwan, with the Great Britain team as well as the Chinese team in particular, which allows Nathan to develop relationships further, and slightly overcome his social awkwardness.

X + Y hosts an impressive British cast, with Rafe Spall stealing the show in particular. Mr Humphreys’ sarcastic personality gels perfectly with Nathan’s short and blunt tendencies, so much that any scene with the two brings humour to the feature. Eddie Marsan plays the usual irritating, condescending and overly-competitive type, taking on the role of the Great Britain’s team leader and teacher Richard. There are great performances from Jake Davies and Alex Lawther who play teammates Luke and an autistic Isaac. Jo Yang plays Zhang Mei a member of the Chinese team who has a specifically large impact on Nathan’s development, and Sally Hawkins gives a graceful and realistic performance as a love-starved mother who longs for her autistic child to one day simply show her some level of affection.

Most importantly, Asa Butterfield, who viewers may recognise from previous films such as The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008), Hugo (2011) and Ender’s Game (2013), impressively portrays an autistic child, drawing upon social awkwardness and an obsession with numbers. Some experts may say that his character development is fairly unrealistic, and therefore misrepresentative of true autistic behaviour, which perhaps hinders the two hour feature slightly, but this is not down to Butterfield’s performance. However, it is great to see such an intuitive representation of a family dealing with autism on the big screen, and is certain to be a film which hits home with a lot of families this year.

Recommendation: This film is definitely worth a watch! Although it may not amaze viewers as much as seeing autism stage-show ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ at the Gielgud theatre in London would, it is still a great and maybe a more accessible insight into the world of an autistic child.


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Nick Price
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One Comment


    *Spoilers, I suppose* —————————I have yet to see the film, but I have read the book twice and rlelay do love it. Based on your description of it, it sounds as if the film echoes the novel quite closely (which is somewhat disappointing – hopefully they do make a few different choices) and so I feel as though I can throw in my two cents.Personally, the ambiguity at the end of the novel was what solidified it as one of my favorites. I’ve discussed which story I believe to be truly with a number of others and have heard arguments for both. In my opinion, the more gruesome story is, in fact, the truth, whereas the version with the animals is merely an allegory. For me, the whole plot is an examination of storytelling itself and how it is relevant to us. This ties in with Pi’s love of all religions – each one presents a fascinating story, though none of them are necessarily ‘true’ in any objective sense. However, any of these religions would be a more pleasant reality than merely believing that the world is cold and useless, despite the fact that that is more than likely true. In this sense, religion is rlelay just another form of storytelling, and storytelling is the greatest tool mankind has to make life a little bit more pleasant. This is why I find the novel (or the film, if it does mirror the book as closely as I’m imagining) to appeal to a much broader audience than some give it credit for. I’m an agnostic-atheist and yet I enjoy the story because it never felt as if it were preaching a religion to me, but merely that faith can be a wonderful thing even if it’s not always grounded in reality. If more religious people think it is just preaching the benefits of such faith and that these more pleasant stories actually are true, that’s perfectly fine as well – the film is open to interpretation depending on where your beliefs lay.

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