“X + Y”

Thanks goodness Dr Buchan found this film for me because there was literally nothing else I wanted to see this week. I wasn’t really meant to be seeing this film, I was supposed to be seeing the new Ron Howard movie “In the Heart of the Sea”, but then I get told at the last minute that the film has been pushed back to a Christmas Day release!, and in case you are wondering, I can’t guarantee that “In the Heart of the Sea” will receive a review from us for the site! That’s because for the last few weeks of December I will be concentrating on reviewing the new Star Wars film. I will, however, try and get a review out of the film if I can!! I am so glad that Dr Buchan found this film because out of all the new film releases for this week, this one was by far the one that looked the best. I didn’t really want to review “Run All Night” because I am done with Liam Neeson action films after the misery of sitting through Taken 3, and Sweet Francais looks like another pretentious period piece which I just wouldn’t enjoy. This is another film I feel hasn’t been given enough advertising, there have been barely any adverts for it, granted It’s been way more advertised than say the previously reviewed Big Eyes or Kill the Messenger, but it still wasn’t showing at a lot of cinemas. Once again I had to go all the way to Manchester to see it because they were the only 4 Odeons showing it! The last time I went to see a couple of films that weren’t being advertised, they turned out to be really good so I was hoping to see a really good film.

X+ Y is the semi-biographical story of Nathan Ellis, played by Asa Butterfield of Enders game fame who takes a keen interest in Maths after being diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, however, he has suffered from tragedy after his father dies in a car accident and his mother Julie, played by Sally Hawkins, struggles to take care of him, not knowing exactly how to communicate with him, which leads to him learning maths from his private tutor Mr Humphries, played by Rafe Spall who is also going through his own trials and tribulations, suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, which eventually leads to Nathan entering the Math Olympics, representing the United Kingdom. The plot sounds very basic and even sounds like it is aiming for awards when you spell it out, however, the film doesn’t feel like that in execution! It actually feels like time was taken out to try and tell a really good story and I will admit, it has a very enjoyable plot. However, it’s not a plot without flaws. I know this film is a semi-biographic picture and I don’t know exactly how much of it was true to life that they couldn’t get around, but some of it does seem slightly contrived and I did think there were some pacing issues in the first half of the film.

I must be honest, I really enjoyed the characters in this film, however, I did think a couple of them seemed a bit too unsympathetic and messed with a lot of the tones of the film, and I did think that a couple of the characters which were meant to come across as a bit more sympathetic didn’t work as well as the film wanted them to. I’m mainly referring to Eddie Marsan’s character Richard. Now Eddie Marsan plays this role really well, there is no question on that front, I just don’t think he is written too well, and I also felt the character of Isaac played by Alex Lawther also came across as way too mean spirited and didn’t feel too true to life. Honestly at times, it felt like he had just stepped out of a Karate Kid Movie, and the same kind of went for Eddie Marsan, although I would say his part was less exacerbated with this. With that being said, those are the only real major negatives with this plot, it is actually done relatively well It’s kind of reminiscent of a few sports movies of the 80’s, like Rocky and The Karate Kid, although in this case for mathematics but unlike those movies it does avoid quite a few cliches and it doesn’t offer any real easy answers. While Rafe Spall’s Humphries is not exactly the most sympathetic character in the world he is at least likeable and enjoyable and he has a decent progression mainly down to Rafe Spall’s really good performance, I just think the film went for a half and half focus with him and Nathan for the first half of the film and then he kind of paled into insignificance in the latter half which I would have preferred the film would have avoided. The best aspect of this film is Nathan. This is a very well written character and I think he is very realistic and gives a very interesting portrayal of Asperger Syndrome and I think he will get across to large amounts of people who don’t necessarily understand the condition fully. What’s great about this is, the film understands that film is a visual medium, they don’t just talk about the subject, they show it and this is done very well and I will go more into that when I talk about the film’s cinematography. Nathan feels very real and he is also very likeable and the relationships he develops with people are also the big holding point of the movie, particularly his relationship with his mother Julie which has amazing progression throughout the film and will keep a lot of people hooked for the longest time. I also really liked the way his relationship with love interest Zhang Mei played by Jo Yang was written. This is written brilliantly and I really enjoyed them as a couple.

The film also has a later depiction of Asperger Syndrome which I think potentially is even better than the depiction of Nathan, however, it’s not given a lot of time but it really hits home and I think he could have done a whole spin off film with the character, but I’m not going to give it away for people who have not seen the film, but be assured it’s done very well and I will probably give it away anyway when I do my section on the Actors. The film also does an excellent job of contrasting the differences between the British and the Chinese sensibilities on Education and attitudes towards Education which was not something I was expecting to get out of the film, but it is done well and it has a decent pay off. The film is directed by Morgan Matthews, who up until now has only done Documentaries, however, I do believe he could do some good work in fiction because this movie obviously has really payed off for him. According to his IMDB page though, he is still planning to do more documentaries in the future. So, my overall thoughts on the film’s plot, were, it’s pretty damn good, but it was slightly flawed at times. I think the film suffers a bit too much from having too many things dip in and out and there are a couple of things that aren’t quite fully resolved or fully explored by the end of the Movie. however the film does know what to keep the focus on at the right time and it does it very well. I also think this is one of the best depictions of Autism and more specifically Asperger Syndrome in almost any film I have seen. But I know that could be a potentially very subjective opinion and I fully respect other peoples opinions if they disagree with me on that, especially if they have been diagnosed with it themselves.

Now I have got that out of the way I can talk about the Actors of the film. This is an ensemble cast, but it’s not a large cast, so there aren’t too many Actors to talk about in this one. Rafe Spall plays his role pretty well and I do enjoy him as an Actor, I wouldn’t say this has been his best role, but I do think he took on the challenge of playing a character who has Multiple Sclerosis pretty seriously and I think he did it really well. Eddie Marsan’s role may not be written brilliantly but I do think he played it pretty well. Martin McCann playing Nathan’s father however, came across as a bit too perfect, but I think that is more a writing issue rather than an acting issue. I also felt that a few of the characters kind of paled into insignificance and felt like the only reason we focused on them were for plot points later, this was particularly in the case of Alexa Davies playing Rebecca who barely gets any time whatsoever. Jo Yang is really good in her role and her and Asa Butterfield have excellent chemistry on screen. Alex Lawther is trying really hard although I do think he hams up his roles a bit too much and I do think the writer has trapped him in a bit of a corner where he is forced to be in a position where he has to act like someone who we don’t want to spend a lot of time around and was forced in to a position where he would end up overdoing it. The stand out performances from the film are Asa Butterfield who does a brilliant job playing Nathan and I would love to know what research he did before taking up this role, if not already being diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome himself (though I am not suggesting that I got the sense that he had aspergers outside of acting). Sally Hawkins does a brilliant job as Nathan’s mother she is seriously going from strength to strength right now and I think she is one role away from her best performance and potentially picking up an Oscar. But the real standout for me is the up and coming Actor Jack Davies who hasn’t done much work, but after this and Cyberbully I’d really like to see him in more stuff. He initially starts off as a character who you think you are going to dislike, but then you slowly grow to really love him. His performance is excellent throughout the film. He also gets the best scene of the film with his interaction with Asa Butterfield in the middle portion of the film. So, once again an excellent ensemble cast, however, there are a few blips in the performances and I think that is more down to the scripts than the actual actors.

Let’s now discuss the films presentation. I wanted to go and see this film with an Autism Friendly screening so that I could actually test out what I’m recommending, however I couldn’t get an Autism Friendly screening in time to get this review written up, so I’m afraid I will have to just go on the description I have heard of one in recommending they are worth checking out. This film has excellent cinematography and really good editing. The film uses excellent camera work and sound editing to really show off Nathan’s Sensory Sensitivity and it works like a treat particularly in ways that Nathans internal monologue of thoughts will suddenly stop when someone opens a can of coke. The Director and Editors understood perfectly this film was a visual medium and you should show rather than tell!! I think this film shows that aspect of Autism better than a lot of films have, particularly in the scenes in Taiwan and when Nathan is sitting down to various Exams. I think this film is also shot beautifully for its static and moving shots, with the occasional hiccup here and there.

Overall my thoughts on X + Y are that it is a very good film, if slightly flawed. I do think a few characters do pale a bit into insignificance and there is some slight acting hiccups from a few members of the cast. However I don’t think you will find a better depiction of Asperger Syndrome in many other films, although I am welcome to be challenged on that. I don’t think this film will have too much of an audience in the cinema’s, especially considering I was the only person at my screening once again, but I do think this film will earn a bit of a life on DVD. It’s well acted, it’s well shot, but I’m not entirely convinced it’s well written, but I do think it’s as well written as it could have been. I do think, however, there will be a lot of people who while enjoy this film a lot more than I did. I actually said to Dr Buchan after reviewing the film that I thought that she would enjoy it more than I did, but I’ll have to wait for it to come out on DVD to let you know whether that is the case! I would give this film a go. I think it will be another underrated gem, although I do suspect it may gain a few BAFTA nominations for 2016. If you have any form of autism and weren’t considering to go and see it at the cinema, Vue Cinema’s are offering Autism Friendly screenings across most of their chain from 2nd April. I highly recommend checking it out. It’s not an incredibly uplifting movie but I do think it’s a movie you will enjoy by the end, go and see it even if you don’t feel you need the Autism Friendly screening. check it out as soon as possible, I think it will work for a lot of people.

What are your thoughts on X + Y? I’m certain this film can generate a lot of conversation. Please if you want to, leave a comment in our comments section we welcome all opinions. Remember, if you would like to write your own reviews, send me an email to calvin@axia-asd.co.uk. Also if you get some time this week, check out Assistant Psychologist, Anna’s book review, on Nerdy, Shy and Socially inappropriate by Cynthia Kim, it’s an excellent read.

As I said, I did promise I would look into Autism Friendly screenings and I would give some recommendations. I do think these are potentially excellent ideas and I think it will help a lot of people who wouldn’t necessarily go to a cinema potentially be able to have the full experience. Vue and Cineworld are offering several screenings and Odeon are also beginning to catch on to the idea. They basically entail that lighting will be kept on during the screening, volume levels will be reduced and there are no advertising or trailers, seating is not allocated and customers are allowed to bring their own food. Cineworld will be offering the screenings at 11.00 on the first Sunday of every month and next month there are a few films on offer. However, I will stress that the majority of these are aimed at a younger audience which is a shame because I think these screenings should cater to the adults as well and the only one I could find was an autism friendly screening of the upcoming Seventh Son in IMAX 3D which I will be reviewing in a couple of week. I haven’t actually been to a screening, but I will recommend that if you wouldn’t normally go to a cinema and you have Asperger Syndrome or any form of Autism you might want try this out. In terms of which films to go to in the films I can find at this point in time in April, Vue will be offering X + Y as previously mentioned and Cineworld is offering several screenings, however they are not all the films I would recommend. With that being said my recommendations are Frozen, which despite my misgivings I will admit on a lot of technical levels is pretty good, Monsters Inc which I think is worth seeing on the big screen again and possibly The Croods, although the latter one is at a stretch.

My Question this week is:
With Autism Friendly screenings mainly favouring kids films, what more adult films should these cinemas be showing and which films should we demand be given these sort of screenings?

Who knows, we may end up sending a letter to Cineworld saying we would like to see this next month please?

Lets’ move on to next week. Now if I had done my Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2015 next weeks film would have been joint first with 2 other films. Join me next Friday on 27 March when I will be reviewing Studio Ghilbi’s latest film, the Oscar Nominated “The Tale of The Princess Kaguya”. As much as I go into films with an open mind, I am really looking forward to this one!

Thanks for reading this review and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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