X + Y Film Review

Film Review by Andy Box
X + Y

The Premise
A socially awkward teenage math prodigy finds new confidence and new friendships when he lands a spot on the British squad at the International Mathematics Olympiad.

The Review
Little Man Nate proves X + Y is a prime number!
I knew absolutely nothing about this movie before seeing it and I was not expecting too much when the opening credits informed me that the BBC were partly involved in its creation and that it was set in the north of England. How wrong can you be!
Let me be clear and please listen when I inform you that this movie is outstanding from start to finish. An emotional blockbuster that punches well and truly above the collective sum of its parts. 

Despite this being Morgan Matthews second work or perhaps follow up piece to Beautiful Young Minds, which is a curious documentary on a similar topic; X + Y stands up as a competent well directed motion picture that will make you laugh, cry and hope, all in equal measure and that’s no small feat considering it is a story about an autistic Mathematics prodigy, brought up by his mother and mentored by a washed up teacher in the early stages of multiple sclerosis. Throw in an Olympiad in Taiwan, a few female love interests, the usual everyday teenager stuff and classrooms full of supposedly geeky talent and you may still be wondering why I am being so positive about this film.

Asa Butterfield (Enders Game) delivers a mesmerizing performance that one might expect of an actor much older than his only eighteen years. If you enjoyed him in Orson Scott Card’s science fiction, save the world tale then you will love this. Asa plays Nathan Ellis with such authenticity and realism that you are drawn into his world almost immediately. Nathan is supported excellently throughout by Sally Hawkins (All is bright, Blue Jasmine) who plays his mother and Rafe Spall (What If, Anonymous) who serves as his mentor teacher. It is these two characters and their own moments of light and dark that raise X+Y from an average, straight to DVD comedy drama.

Spall sprinkles the lightest touches of humour with his hammer like wit at just the right moments so as to lift the mood from despair to hope and keep the audience engaged. Whilst Hawkins give an above average portrayal of a single parent struggling to come to terms with her relationship with her son, who is a socially awkward autistic genius.  Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan) adds just a little more originality and flavor as an incredibly driven, patriotic, tongue in cheek, coach of the British Mathematics team.

There are obvious similarities that can be drawn with Jodie Foster’s directorial Debut film, Little Man Tate (1991) and Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind (2002) and I am not saying for one minute that X+Y is better than these two wonderful movies. However, I will go so far as to say that X+Y has something a little different, which is the use of comedy to balance out the serious, darker, more uncomfortable aspects of such subject content.  

The Verdict
An absolute must see film that will leave you wishing that all British comedy drama was this good.

The Trailer

The Info
Releases: 19th March 2015
Rating: TBC
Duration: 111 minutes 
Genre:  Comedy Drama
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Rafe Spall, Sally Hawkins
Director: Morgan Matthews (Shooting Bigfoot)

The Extras
One of the filming locations was King Edward VII Upper School in Sheffield.


One of the filming locations was High Storrs school in Sheffield.