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A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful Mind is an engrossing human drama about a personal battle faced by a man who, apparently, has the world at his feet.

Images from the film A Beautiful Mind_140

ON paper, a film about a paranoid-schizophrenic mathematical genius, who wins the Nobel Prize for economics sounds like the world's best cure for insomnia, or so you would think.

Well, you would be wrong. A Beautiful Mind is an engrossing human drama about a personal battle faced by a man who, apparently, has the world at his feet.

It is carried by another powerhouse performance by Russell Crowe, who after playing a cop with a hair-trigger (LA Confidential), a paunchy executive (The Insider), and a vengeful Roman General (Gladiator), seems to have no end to his acting repertoire.

Crowe plays John Forbes Nash Jr, one of the most brilliant minds of our time.

The film begins with Nash arriving at Princeton University in 1947 to take up a graduate fellowship. From the beginning, he displays highly eccentric behaviour.

Despite having total command of his mathematical art (and he is adamant that it is an art), he is an academic geek who cannot function with people, even on a basic level, "I don't like people much, and they don't like me".

He is blunt to the point of rudeness, his 'chat-up lines' often end with a smack in the face and on introduction to his fellow graduates, he tells a fellow scholarship winner "There is not a single seminal idea on either of your papers."

Discovering an original idea becomes his consuming and self-destructive passion.

The only person who can reach him is his high-spirited room-mate, Charles Herman (Paul Bettany), who offers emotional support and a welcome diversion from his manic research.

His accomplishments at Princeton bring him the coveted academic fame he desperately sought and also brings him the pick of any job he wants.

It brings him into contact with a beautiful, young physicist Alicia (Jennifer Connelly), who is attracted to him despite his eccentricities.

It also brings him to the attention of shadowy figures in the US government.

He is approached by William Parcher (Ed Harris), a black-ops agent, who at the height of the Cold War, recruits Nash as a code breaker.

But Nash's mind, always fragile, starts to splinter under the pressure.

Living two separate lives, trying to keep everything segregated - both in his life, and in his head - is too much. His mind cracks and sends him into delusional meltdown.

Borders between reality and fantasy fade and blur, and Nash's own brilliant mind betrays him as scientific rationality gives way to the delusional thought of paranoid schizophrenia.

Images from the film A Beautiful Mind_140

Akiva Goldman's script is partly based on Nash's biography, of the same name.

But does the adaptation of the story translate into a gripping movie without falling into the pitfalls of heavy-handed schmaltz and cartoonish portrayal of mental illness?

In essence, yes it does.
Although the filmmakers have taken a few liberties with Nash's biography, including the omission of some of the more sensational facts of his love life, this is a considerate and provoking film about human weakness and strength of character.

One could wish for more detail from periphery characters, but as the film covers such a long period of time - 1947-1994 - it is, perhaps, inevitable that some details will be glossed over.

Director Ron Howard - more renown for making somewhat OTT emotionally stirring flicks - has succeeded in giving a dignified and realistic portrayal of mental illness from the point of view of the sufferer.

Nash's treatment despite being overseen by a sympathetic psychiatrist (Christopher Plummer) is harrowing.

Restraints, agonizing courses of insulin shock therapy and heavy medication, calms his delusions but dulls his mind and body, making him unable to function either in the world or as a husband.

Crowe gives a superb, no-nonsense, distressing portrayal of the fractured genius without falling into cliché. No ranting, raving or thrashing around.

His performance is tapered by reality, his agitated mental state manifests in a disintegration of his physical appearance and body movements, and is all the more believable and distressing for it.

Jennifer Connelly matches Crowe's emotional intensity in a believable portrayal of Nash's resilient and determined wife Alicia.

Ed Harris gives a sense of urgent unease, while Paul Bettany is charismatic and hugely likeable, both give their characters a convincing three dimensional feeling.

Unfortunately, Howard lacks the courage of his initial convictions and towards the end, an infusion of uplifting emotional sentiment takes the edge off what had been a fairly uncompromising story, but considering the circumstances, that is forgivable.

A Beautiful Mind is a story of the triumph over adversity and the power of both the human spirit and unwavering love and devotion.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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