25 April 2015

Proof (starring Gwyneth Paltrow)

I’m not sure how I came across this particular film; perhaps it was recommended to me by Amazon, as I’ve enjoyed others by Gwyneth Paltrow. Or perhaps - as I suspect - I read a review of it which made me convinced we would enjoy it. Whatever the reason, I added it to my wish-list many months ago and was delighted to receive it for a recent birthday.

We watched ‘Proof’ with our twenty-something son, and all found ourselves captivated from the start. Gwyneth Paltrow stars as Catherine, the daughter of a once brilliant mathematician (Anthony Hopkins). We meet them at the start of the story having a slight surreal chat in the kitchen, only to learn that Catherine’s father recently died.

She’s bereft, and is unimpressed that a student, Hal (Jake Gyllenhaal) is spending many hours in her father’s study, working his way through his recent notebooks in the hope of finding something worth keeping amidst the ramblings that were the result of some kind of mental illness that bugged him for many years.

Catherine has looked after her father, giving up her own mathematical research programme but ensuring that he could remain in his own home rather than being institutionalised. Her sister Claire (Hope Davis) is much more conventional; armed with checklists and plans, she decides to sell the house and move Catherine back to the city...

If that weren’t enough, Hal is clearly smitten with Catherine, and she is convinced that she is hovering on the brink of insanity, sometimes wondering if she’s already crossed it. The film uses flashback extensively, so we see Catherine with her father some years previously, and gradually build up a picture of her life and just what she’s given up.

And then there’s a notebook found with a brilliant mathematical proof in it, one that will astound the academic world...and, cleverly interwoven, is the necessity to prove authorship and ownership of the proof itself.

It sounds rather dry, perhaps, and a bit off-putting for those who struggle with even high school maths. But there’s no need at all to understand the academics of this movie: the story is about relationships, and trust, and also about women’s portrayal in academic mathematical circles. I wasn’t sure what the outcome was going to be until near the end; the story is very cleverly written, brilliantly directed, and flawlessly acted.

At times it’s quite harrowing; our emotions were engaged, our heartstrings pulled. Yet there are lighter moments to ease the tension too. Once or twice we laughed aloud. The ending is entirely satisfactory, yet as it drew to an end we all felt drained.

The rating is 12, which we thought about right. There’s no violence (although there’s a threat in one place), no nudity, but one ‘bedroom’ scene. There’s some bad language, appropriate to the situations, but we didn’t think it too excessive. The film would probably not be of interest to anyone under the age of about 12 or 13 anyway.

No fast action, no sweet romance, but a very different plot that’s extremely well executed. Made in 2005 but still available on both sides of the Atlantic ten years later.

Extras comprise a few deleted scenes (one entirely unnecessary) and a commentary from the actors.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's DVD Reviews

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