X+Y (2014) – TIFF World Premiere Review
★ ★ ★ out of 5
Directed by Morgan Matthews
Starring Asa Butterfield as Nathan Ellis
Rafe Spall as Martin Humphreys
Sally Hawkins as Julie
An autistic but mathematically gifted teenager, Nathan, enrolls on the British mathematics team. He goes to China to train in math, where he’s partnered up with his competition. A young Chinese girl.
X+Y is a sometimes incredibly fun and charming, but more often heavy handed and very cheesy romantic drama. This is one of those films that has all the right ingredients to make a good movie, but struggles to find it’s footing and put it all together. It has what it takes, but it oftentimes lacks subtlety, making it feel like it’s slapping you in the face with “feel something”. The story of X+Y is pretty simple, it’s an old fashioned love story, except the love story is more about a boy and his mathematics than it is about two people. This makes it interesting to watch, it’s a fresh Cinema Paradiso-esque take on this kind of story. Where the strengths of X+Y really lie though are in the characters, mainly in the characters of Martin Humphreys played by Rafe Spall, and Julie Ellis, played by Sally Hawkins. These two characters are incredibly well written, realistic, and human characters. Rafe Spall gives an all-star performance as Martin Humphreys, a slacker math teacher with multiple sclerosis. His portrayal of the character is absolutely beautiful. He’s funny, he makes us really feel, and he’s so pleasurable to watch. Unfortunately, this feels counteracted by Asa Butterfield’s perfectly mediocre portrayal of Nathan. He didn’t really do anything while on screen, which was really annoying, seeing as Nathan is a character that has so much potential for a brilliant performance. Butterfield wasn’t necessarily bad, he was just very disappointing. In the end though, X+Y does do a lot of things right, but it does an equal amount of things wrong, leaving it perfectly in the middle. A very neutral film.