X+Y. We received a couple of free tickets late last week, and though we knew nothing about the movie, went along to the preview showing.
What a pleasant surprise! It's the story of a boy who has some level of autism which shows itself in an inability to relate well socially while also being able to do maths exceptionally well - to the degree that he's invited to enter for the Maths Olympiad.
There's a good deal more to it than that, but I won't spoil your surprise by telling you how it plays out. Just take it from me it's well worth going to see.
Asa Butterfield, who was The Boy in Striped Pyjamas, is superb as Nathan, the main character. (His younger self is equally well-played by Edward Baker-Close.) He manages to wend his way through the minefield that playing an autistic boy can be, and remain believable. It's not assumed in the movie that you have to be autistic to be good at maths, of course, which is one particular plus, and equally it's assumed that people who are considered autistic in some degree vary enormously.
The somewhat eccentric actress Sally Hawkins plays Nathan's mother, and though she doesn't avoid all of her quirky approaches to acting, she's good in the role, and brings character to a part that could have been maudlin. (We last saw her in Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky, which is possibly one of the most annoying movies we've ever seen, mostly because of the character Hawkins plays in it!)
Rafe Spall is Nathan's teacher (he has multiple sclerosis, to boot). Spall is also an actor who brings a lot of bells and whistles to his acting; indeed one awkward scene between Hawkins and Spall in this movie could quite easily have come from a Mike Leigh film. Spall is excellent, however, in spite of being saddled with an illness that doesn't seem to develop too rapidly over the course of the film's several years. He has a bunch of great lines, and delivers them wonderfully.
Eddie Marsan, hiding his somewhat odd features behind a beard, is another slightly off-the-wall character, playing the man in charge of the British team involved in the Olympiad.
There are some great performances amongst the maths whizzes, but the stand-out one comes from Alex Lawther, who's torn between the fact that his family 'require' him to be a genius, see him as 'unique' because of his autistic aspect, and obviously expect him to love something it turns out he doesn't particularly care about.
I'm sure there'll be some who carp at yet another movie about autism that only presents part of the picture, but for all that this is a wonderfully human story, and very satisfying.