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LFF 2014: X+Y (Morgan Matthews, 2014)

Director Morgan Matthews last feature was a telling and bizarre documentation of a group of middle age southerners in the US, intent on finding Bigfoot (Shooting Bigfoot, EIFF 2013). His trademark charm as a filmmaker translates into totally different fiction stunningly, with the touching depiction of both familial and personal encounters with mental struggles and gifts.

Nathan loves nothing more than numbers. His single mother is left alone to raise him after the tragic death of his father when he was younger. He suffers  from mild autism and struggles to connect well with people. That is, until recently. Nathan’s immense talent leads him to Taipei, where he meets like minded mathematicians, and has no option but to stand up and speak.

Upon its release next year, it is almost guaranteed that X+Y will be labeled ‘feel good’. It is a triumphant story, expected to be told in a similar vein to the likes of Slumdog Millionaire, but instead its charm lies in its subdued tenderness.

Asa Butterfield, taking the lead, plays the role brilliantly. He’s a truly talented young actor with a shedload of potential to create a character of himself as he matures. His dialogue, quite similarly to his work in Hugo, is matter of fact and endearing, and its deliverance puts a smile on your face. Hawkins does an outstanding job as Nathan’s mother; a brilliant pairing bringing forth the already iconic ‘Hawkins flare’ to her role. Rafe Spall makes a memorable feature as Nathan’s foul mouthed maths teacher; whose lack of determination towards himself is fed into his passion for his pupil.

X+Y’s ability to, for the most part, steer clear from cliches makes it an absolute pleasure to absorb. Matthews fictional work feels almost uncannily like the work of the masterful Stephen Frears; majestic, human and unmistakeably British.

Whether you love or detest mathematics, X+Y has a sensitive charisma that will bowl you over, time and time again.



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