Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

A Brilliant Young Mind

(UK, 2014)

Is it gross and insensitive of me to say that I’m pretty tired of movies about autistic geniuses? It just seems there have been a lot of them since Rain Man, (which was about a savant, not a genius). We classify autism these days as a spectrum, with people like this boy in this movie on one end, which we call “Asperger’s Syndrome,” and really means just mild social handicaps, and on the other end … well, we know an autistic man in his 60s. He understands speech but has never spoken. He never makes eye contact. He answers questions with a microscopic nod or shake of the head. His gait is a slow shuffle. And from time to time he shits his pants and it doesn’t bother him. And he is not even the worst, because he is pretty calm, doesn’t bash his head or scream or move constantly. Hard to see there’s a good movie in his story, but I have to say I’m getting a little tired about movies about autistic geniuses.

This one concerns something called the International Mathematical Olympics, or something like that. Apparently it is real. Whiz kids from all over the world convene somewhere every year and fight it out with pencils and notebooks. Our boy is emotionally disturbed over the violent death of his father when he was quite young. He meets a Chinese girl, who brings him out of his shell. And it just looks too damn easy to me.

I have another problem. One of the problems people like this have seems to be relentless honesty. They say exactly what they are thinking, no matter if it hurts someone. He doesn’t do that with this girl … and yet he is constantly hurting his mother, the person who has stood by him through years of hardship, by saying things like she is dumb. Aspie’s are smart, okay? They may not be able to interpret facial expressions, nor really understand why people are hurt, but they are able to learn what is hurtful. I didn’t like this kid because he seems not to have bothered to learn when it comes to his mother. I can see that people would like this, but I didn’t.