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Reviews in Retrospect: A Beautiful Mind

Ron Howard’s adaptation explores the interface of our inner and outer worlds, and the capacity we have in creating reality from what we value most.

A beautiful mind film

2001’s A Beautiful Mind, inspired in part by the 1998 Pulitzer-nominated book by Sylvia Nasar, is the extraordinary story of one man's struggle between genius, madness and the redemptive power of love. The multi-award winner was an impressive box office success, a phenomenal result for a film about an eccentric, unknown-to-many maths professor called John Forbes Nash Jnr.

It’s success is a tribute to the vision of director Ron Howard, who investigates Nash’s journey from an intensely personal viewpoint with curiosity and compassion. This is upheld by emotionally intelligent acting from leads Russell Crowe (Nash) and Jennifer Connelly (Alicia Nash), whose chemistry breathes romance that is central to the tale.

The narrative follows Nash from Princeton University, as student then teacher, to his work for the US government and winning the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economics for his ‘Co-operative Bargaining Theory’.

A loner unpractised in the rules of social engagement, Nash is obsessed by his work. Immersed in the world of his creative imagination, working tirelessly on theories, he begins engaging with new friends.

‘Good friend’ Charles (Paul Bettany) demonstrates affection, teasing Nash out of his anti-social bubble to eat pizza and drink beer. There is a seductive reality here, also embodied in the character of sweetly innocent Marcee (Vivien Cardone), Charles’s young orphaned niece.

Crowe’s performance is absolutely exceptional, bringing painful isolation and idiosyncratic humour to the role.

The camera consistently holds true to Nash’s point of view as he encounters characters, William Parcher (Ed Harris) in particular, who may or may not be involved in his ’classified’ government work.

As he begins to doubt his reliability as witness to his own experiences and his family life is threatened, Nash is torn distressingly between two worlds. The scene in which he sits on the bed, saying to his wife (Connelly), “I don’t know what’s real any more,” is profoundly poignant as she strokes his cheek, affirming, “This is real.”

A Beautiful Mind speaks about internal conflict and the things that haunt us. It explores our choices in creating our reality, what we edit out, and what we value and focus on, which ultimately gives our lives meaning.

Nash's search takes him through "the delusional and back again". As he poses the question, 'Who decides reason?', he finds the unexpected answer is the discovery of a lifetime.

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