Asa Butterfield is developing a real knack for playing off-kilter young men who solve complex problems by staring them down until—unnerved from exposure to the giant sapphires he uses as eyes—they sheepishly fix themselves. The latest Butterfield Staredown happens in the trailer for A Brilliant Young Mind, in which the young actor plays Nathan Ellis, a young math prodigy who appears to fall on the “camera friendly, Hollywood-inspirational” portion of the autism spectrum.
Butterfield is accompanied by Sally Hawkins as Nathan’s genial mother, and Rafe Spall as his teacher, whose gentle flirtations with Hawkins almost earn him a bludgeoning-by-telescope that would probably get in the way of his job laying down line after line of inspirational teacher patter. The plot centers on Ellis’ entrance into the United Kingdom’s prestigious math squad, where Butterfield distantly stares his way to greatness, while presumably learning some valuable lessons about love, and life, and all those other things gifted young men are always learning about in celebrated indie films.
A Brilliant Young Mind was released last year in the U.K., to positive reviews, as X + Y; the title change is a reference to the documentary that the movie was adapted from, and is presumably meant to invoke Oscar-winning math drama A Beautiful Mind, or possibly just to acknowledge that American audiences aren’t going to go see anything that reminds them directly of algebra, or the defunct ABC Family show Kyle XY.