Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Rafe Spall, Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Jo Yang, Martin McCann, Jake Davies, Alex Lawther, Alexa Davies, Orion Lee, Edward Baker Close, Percelle Ascott.
To be able to watch a film that deals with something completely different, the soul not only sings, it positively chirps with delight.
In the last couple of years the output of British cinema dealing with British stories has been strident, exciting and a real Agincourt moment to those suggest that only anything that comes out of America can ever be worthy of seeing. From The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything and beyond, British Cinema has probably never felt so alive since the days of the Ealing Comedy. X+Y is no different, it is a film that conjures up the best of ideas and sets about making them happen. That a British film of such quality can be made also justifies Colin Welland’s assertion 30 years ago, the British have not only come but they are making better films than they have for over 60 years.
X+Y deals with a young maths prodigy who has lost his father in a car accident when he was small and the way that his mother, (a splendid Sally Hawkins) and his teacher put him forward to try out for the British team at the 59th International Maths Olympics. The prospect is hard enough for any young person but when that teenager is on the autistic spectrum, the triumph over adversity is one that is looked carefully at.
When a British film can boast the electrifying talent of Rafe Spall, Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan and Asa Butterfield within its cast, then there must be something deeply special about the script, something incredibly unique. X+Y is inimitable and rare, beautiful and for those who don’t live with someone on the spectrum for autism, perhaps even exhausting, it is though without a shadow of doubt, quite arguably the British film of the year and perhaps only the eagerly awaited Lady In The Van with Dame Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings will match it for home-grown prowess.
Rafe Spall, like his father before him in Mr. Turner, is quite superb in his role as Nathan’s maths teacher Mr. Humphreys. A man so beset by his own battle against Multiple Sclerosis that his frankness towards all that lays before him, not only captures what it feels like to have a disability that is only going to get worse but shows it with tender care. With Eddie Marsan’s Richard trying to compare him to Stephen Hawking, the audience is reminded perfectly that not everybody deals, or indeed overcomes, physical health issues in the same way. The cruel and barbed attack is one that the disabled can expect every day, whilst it might be seen as a gee up by the owner of the words, it has the opposite effect and for the disease to be shown in a fairly positive light, with Rafe Spall accepting the inevitable but also finding the will to do what comes naturally, is a refreshing aspect to the film and the story.
X+Y looks at life through the frustrated eyes of a young teenage boy who lives only the peace and solitude that maths provides him. The disturbance that being seen as shy, remote, perhaps aloof and in some cases dismissive and arrogant are so well performed by Asa Butterfield that the raw emotion seen by loved ones of people who live with the effect and cause that being on the spectrum can bring is one that is identifiable and heart breaking. Mr. Butterfield must be congratulated fully for being able to portray this completely and with tremendous warmth.
Ian D. Hall