A Beautiful Mind - rated - SIMMERING

In Two Minds

It is ironic, but I am in two minds about this film. First, I see a film in which the tragedy of schizophrenia is shown in a most sympathetic way, and the human story is ultimately triumphant, in a measured kind of way. But then I see a film in which a man's life story is told, but it may have conveniently left out some of the more difficult details (there's some doubt about that too, now). So if it is now fiction, how can it be biography? Does it matter?

Ron Howard's film does many things well. First, it casts Russell Crowe in a difficult role: John Nash is a difficult man to love, and Crowe has to gain our sympathies early on so that we will stay with him through the difficult times of his illness. Crowe does this magnificently, and ages 47 years to boot. The aging man in the film is by far the best I've ever seen. Was some of it digital?

Next, Howard shows the delusions of Nash in a most inventive and effective way. It is a physical shock when the truth is revealed. Some of the other visual effects in the film are just glorious: a ray of light refracting off a punchbowl and hitting a man's tie, for example. And the way Howard shows Nash's analyses of mathematical problems is also a standout.

In A Beautiful Mind, Howard makes us understand how frightening it must be to see and hear people who aren't really there. In doing so he does an important service for those with schizophrenia. He gives the schizophrenic a human face: Crowe's.


The story Howard tells is not the whole story. Before he married Alicia, Nash had a mistress who had his child. Some have suggested that he had affairs with men too (but he denies this). The story leaves all of this out, and quite frankly, I think the story would have been better had it dealt with more of the uncomfortable parts of Nash's life - whether it be his child by another woman, or any of the other, more messy, details. Although the film moved me, I also found myself, at times, looking at my watch. I think Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldman, oversimplified the story in order to make the main point. In doing so they have condescended to viewers, and that's a grave mistake.

© Michèle M Asprey 2002

This review is copyright. You must not use any part without my permission.