And the Oscar Goes to:
A Beautiful Mind, 2001
Directed by: Ron Howard
Starring: Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Paul Bettany, Adam Goldberg, Judd Hirsch, Josh Lucas, Anthony Rapp, Christopher Plummer
Based on Sylvia Nasar’s novel of the same name, A Beautiful Mind is a biographical drama film based on the life of mathematician John Nash (played by Russell Crowe, Gladiator), who famously suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and delusions.
The first half of the film describes Nash’s rise through the mathematical world; his early days at Princeton University and his friends (consisting of a social group and his roommate), before helping the government crack codes, falling in love and subsequently marrying, before working full-time on top-secret military work. All of this build-up is necessary to establish his life; however it does seem to take a longer time than perhaps necessary. Being focused on mathematicians and scholars at university, there are periods where the film slows down considerably as we listen to them talk about their work.
After all of this is established, though, the film turns on its head. We then find out about his schizophrenia and how he has been having delusions, and suddenly everything leading up to that point is questioned: was his roommate real? Was he really working for the government? Is he really married? Every character Nash subsequently interacts with comes with this thought process about their legitimacy and this makes the film truly fascinating. Nash soon deteriorates and the love-story element comes into play as his wife sticks by him, despite the obvious distress its causing her having to look after him. Knowing that this is based on their true life, it’s beautiful knowing how much she endured yet remained faithful and loving towards him.
Plot aside the film is filled with brilliant acting (with its two leads nominated for their acting; Russell Crowe for Best Actor and Jennifer Connelly for Best Supporting Actress), and the writing is effective and creates compelling characters. The writing subtly drops off hints throughout about characters’ legitimacy (with his roommate, Charles Herman (Paul Bettany), mentioning the height of his niece in passing conversation, before we see her five years later and she hasn’t grown. The carefully placed comment alluded to something not being right).
A Beautiful Mind is a carefully-paced film, fully establishing all elements of Nash’s life, with only a few hints to something not being right, before revealing the truth. A brilliant script, with brilliant acting and an excellently constructed mental deterioration of Nash make this film a wonderfully put-together film.
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