Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful Mind is a film directed by Ron Howard that stars Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly and Ed Harris.  It tells the story of John Nash, a gifted mathematician who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.

The film opens at Princeton as we get to know John Nash (Russell Crowe), an awkward yet highly intelligent student who struggles to make friends and relate to his fellow classmates.  We are introduced to his rather eccentric roommate, Charles (Paul Bettany), who helps him let loose a little bit.

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Nash tries his hardest to come up with the perfect theory for his dissertation and we get to watch him finally stumble across a genius idea.

Later we see Nash as a professor, and at one of his classes we meet his soon-to-be wife, Alicia (Jennifer Connelly).  They fall in love in a short yet cute sequence which marks one of the only happy parts of the entire movie.

Undergirding all this is some sort of government operation Nash has been commissioned to work on involving a Soviet bomb hidden somewhere on the Eastern seaboard that Nash must help the U.S. find using coordinates and different ciphers.

Spoilers from here on out!

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As the film progresses, we learn that Nash really isn't working for the U.S. government, but it's actually an elaborate delusion brought about by paranoid schizophrenia.  He is taken to a mental facility where he undergoes rigorous treatment while his pregnant wife struggles to understand his condition.

Not only is the entire U.S. government conspiracy shown to be a fabrication, but even some of Nash's fondest memories about his roommate Charlie and his little niece are also revealed to be delusions.  One of the saddest parts of the films comes at this part when the doctor says, "Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been. What kind of hell would that be?"

Nash's schizophrenia is under relative control via medication, but he has still lost his prestigious career and has embarrassed himself in several ways in the academic world.  He lives at home with his wife and their baby, but he still can't lead a normal life.

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The medication prevents Nash from solving math problems as he normally would and from doing several other human tasks and eventually he begins to stop taking his medicine.  Again the U.S. conspiracy delusion returns, more ferocious this time and more dangerous.  At one point in the film, Nash is so convinced that his imagined roommate Charlie is taking care of the baby that the baby almost drowns in a bathtub.

Alicia desperately tries to call the doctor, but in one of the most heartbreaking parts of the film, Nash is convinced that she is part of the conspiracy and has to be stopped.  He pushes her to the floor and comes very close to harming her.

She leaves the house with the baby and Nash returns to the hospital and begins taking his medication again.  He undergoes therapy and eventually returns to a state where he is able to go back to Princeton and study in the library.

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Slowly life returns to relative normalcy, with Nash acknowledging that he has little delusions that follow him around but he tries to focus on what's real and eventually is able to teach classes again.

The film ends with John Nash receiving his Nobel prize for achievement in economics and in life where he delivers a speech thanking his wife.

This film was incredibly well made.  Russell Crowe did a fantastic job portraying John Nash's confusion, frustration and paranoia.  Similarly, my heart broke for Jennifer Connelly's character and her fantastic performance of a wife struggling to support someone she loved but recognizing that he is much different than the person she thought she knew was absolutely stellar.  Also, this is totally off topic, but isn't Jennifer Connelly absolutely beautiful?  She has such a gorgeous complexion!  Anyway haha.

The score is beautiful but very sad to listen to.  It fits in well with the movie without overpowering any elements of the film.  The entire movie is well shot and each frame looks carefully realized and corrected.

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This film emotionally affected me very deeply; it's one of the saddest movies I've ever seen.  This movie is based on a true story which makes it all the more sad and hard to watch.  While this specific story has a rather happy ending, it is difficult to think of all the other versions of this story that really don't have happy endings: all the people in similar positions with paranoid schizophrenia who don't receive the help and support that John Nash got, and live in fear and confusion.

This movie is definitely not a popcorn movie you can sit back and "enjoy", and it's not necessarily a movie I ever think I could watch again or would want to watch again because it made me so upset, but I still think it's an important movie for everyone to see and think about.

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The best part of this film, in my opinion, is introducing the audience to the character of John Nash and making us care about him before introducing his schizophrenia.  It demonstrates that he is a normal person who suffers from a condition and not some sort of mutant or subhuman psycho caricature which is often the representation of people with mental conditions in film.

The strength of this film is the wonderful characterization and examination of the way that mental illness affects humans--not only those directly afflicted but those who care about them.

This is definitely a classic and a movie that is worth your time--on a day when you're feeling emotionally strong ;)

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