Driven by the characters even if some of them are difficult subjects
Each year the best and brightest at mathematics across the world come together to take part in the International Mathematical Olympiad. Within the UK the selection process involves a series of math camps, tests and waiting while the group of hopefuls is gradually whittled down to the few that will take part. This film follows a handful of hopefuls as they try to make it in the group that will be representing the UK in the 2006 IMO in Slovenia.
If you remember the success of the film Spellbound, then the best way to describe this film is to think of it as Spellbound but with numbers instead of letters. With Spellbound the casual viewer can understand the subject and see the answer while the subject tries to get it but of course with this film I was lost from the very start. Early in the film we listen to some of the questions being read out and apart from recognising that the language is English, I was lost! Fortunately, like Spellbound, director Morgan Matthews doesn't spend too long on this but rather focuses on the characters.
This is very much the forte of Morgan Matthews as he has made many "quirkumentaries" for the BBC over recent years. Of these most have been good even if some have been a bit too much about the quirk without anything of genuine interest in the characters or their lives. With Beautiful Young Minds the characters are interesting enough to draw the viewer in, even if the challenge during filming was that some of those focused on don't make it through to the end. This is handled reasonably well when it comes but fortunately some of the main people (Jos and Daniel) get there or thereabouts, which makes it easier to hold the viewer with the characters.
Matthews doesn't judge or overplay the young minds of the title but rather just lets them be and as a result his film is more interesting than the subject would suggest. While the subject of maths is not really brought out that well, the characters are structured and delivered well in an interesting and engaging way and it is this that carries it along. However, due to the people involved mostly having some degree of autism, they are not comparable to Spellbound in regards the charm and as a result some viewers may not agree with me that the characters hold it together. Despite the social difficulties many have, they are still interesting to meet and I did like the way that the film made me challenge my preconceptions about them as people.
Overall then an entertaining quirkumentary that is well delivered with good work on the characters. OK so the maths and the impact of autism on some of the characters means that Matthews doesn't totally succeed in the same way as Spellbound did but it is still a good film nonetheless.
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