DRAMA; 1hr 51min

STARRING: Asa Butterfield, Rafe Spall, Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Jo Yang

Strange equation: Yang and Butterfield

Before he directed his first feature, Morgan Matthews was an accomplished documentarian and it was his 2007 TV documentary Beautiful Young Minds that grew, acorn-style, into the fictionalised reality of X+Y.


Aphasia-diagnosed Nathan (Edward Baker-Close as a child, Butterfield as a teen) is a maths prodigy and behavioural riddle. Young Nathan’s father, Michael (Martin McCann), was always able to reach him; after Michael’s death, Nathan’s mother, Julie (Hawkins), grapples with her son’s monosyllabic remove, which Matthews neither heightens nor softens. Tutored by sardonic, MS-afflicted Martin Humphreys (Spall), whose disability is another imprisonment, Nathan makes the United Kingdom team at the International Mathematical Olympiad. His fellow brains are multiples of cockiness but Nathan is so rattled he can barely function, which makes the triumph of his intellect and his growing closeness to a Chinese team cutie (Yang) all the more remarkable.


As Nathan struggles in a high-performance pressure cooker of supreme expectations and incomprehensible emotions, a nervy Butterfield seems racked with unmoored frustration. Hawkins, Spall and Marsan (as a domineering United Kingdom coach) are genuinely great, as well, highlighting the myriad issues of autism for those locked in by it and those battling to reach them.