Brilliance is No Simple Matter
By Skip Sheffield
It’s not easy being smart. “A Brilliant Young Mind” dramatizes the trials of a 14-year-old British math genius named Nathan (Asa Butterfield of “Hugo”) when he wins a spot on the national British team competing at the International Mathematical Olympiad in Taiwan. The script by James Graham was inspired by director Morgan Matthews’ film documentary “Beautiful Young Minds.” The story begins with Nathan at age 9 witnessing the traumatic death of his father in a gruesome auto crash. It then flashes forward to Nathan at 14. He is very shy and awkward around other people, but his math teacher, Martin Humphreys (Rafe Spall), recognizes his brilliance and encourages Nathan to try out for one of the six available spots on the British team.
Watching a bunch of brainy young kids solving math problems is not very entertaining, so attention is paid to Nathan’s windowed mother Julie (Sally Hawkins) and her boyfriend who is trying to be a substitute father. It’s no spoiler to reveal Nathan makes the team and travels to Taiwan where he meets a lovely young female genius named Zhang Mei (Jo Yang). Love blossoms against the backdrop of intense intellectual competition. It culminates with the world IMO competition at Cambridge University back in England, where the dramatic climax takes place.
If nothing else, “Brilliant Young Mind” demonstrates brainiacs have their difficulties just as ordinary people do. In fact they may have more.