Life x ∞ (infinity)
Communication is a strange auld thing. Since the beginning of well, some time ago, Man has being telling anyone who’ll listen stories about anything and everything via seemingly endless different mediums. Be it song, dance, painting, music, books etc, but generally in possibly the weakest of all mediums, speaking words. With their nefarious ability to be constantly misunderstood, even the greatest intentions of their use can fall foul to being misheard, misused or tainted with everyone’s internal bias in their use and understanding of any particular chosen phrase. Yet regardless, we harrow on.
Considering we all live within the realms of that constantly moving linguistic minefield, it’s a wonder that we don’t all say far less than we do, as surely most of the time it’s all rather confusing to say the least. And that’s all written from the perspective and within the parameters of what could be deemed ‘normal’, which in itself is a highly biased view when it effectively means most folk are like this, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good.
Now what if your basic ability to use this common device of communication is removed and you are born into the world as a statistic on the autism rating scale, it’s going to make things slightly more difficult to say the least. When you don’t even understand the worlds your mind is creating in your head, never mind trying to explain them to another person with dialogue. Here is the world that director Morgan Matthews is bringing is into with the absolutely beautiful movie ‘x+y’ (2014).
Nathan (fantastically played by Asa Butterfield) is a young boy who came into existence landing on this autistic plain of very unique individuals who mostly don’t see the world by using the same barometer of interpretation as the majority of folk. To the upset of his parents Julie (Sally Hawkins, who is absolutely one of the finest actors around today) and Michael (Martin McCann), who have different ways of coping and coming to terms with the news. Michael recognises the potential magic in his sons ability/experience of synesthesia and tells his son that he has been gifted with super powers (rather than focusing on what are considered abnormal traits). His sons eyes light up with the news and a bridge out of an isolated world is built.
Tragically that structure is swiftly demolished in an accident, and with the loss of his father Nathan socially retreats internally, whilst trying to bring order and controllable reason to his understanding of this world of chaos through the use of maths. It’s his coping mechanism.
It also becomes Nathan’s chosen way of communicating with the world. Some folk write sonnets, Nathan writes algorithms. But at least he has found a seed of a voice to express through. Unfortunately his mum (heartbreakingly) doesn’t seem to have the same capacity to form routes of communication into her sons numerical universe as the belated dad, but with her love and perseverance tenuous threads are built with the help of school maths teacher Humphreys (Rafe Spall in fine cantankerous form) who encourages Nathan to embrace and feed his skills, and begin his tentative steps into a worldly/life adventure.
Even though the main focus is Nathan’s journey, it’s actually everyone that is on a journey, including the viewer. Matthews has a solid background in directing documentaries and this really comes to the fore in an ability to tell human stories in a very knowledgeable way, without being judgemental, but it also brings a very realistic approachable familiarity to what is unfolding before us. There is so much human understanding, tolerance, compassion and perseverance on screen that is at many times simply overwhelming, but in a very great way. And though the route of Nathans journey may sound somewhat analytical considering his vocation in maths and international maths competitions (no I didn’t know they existed either), is absolutely one of the most heart warming movies I’ve seen in years, and it’s very well deserved A+ to everyone involved.
x+y is out now.