Story

In X + Y, nine-year-old Nathan Ellis (Edward Baker-Close) has autism spectrum disorder. He is sensitive and detached, but also a maths prodigy who is fixated on complex mathematical patterns. Nathan avoids touch and finds it challenging to interact socially. The only person he connects with is his father, Michael (Martin McCann). When Nathan witnesses his father’s death in a car accident, he is traumatised and becomes more introverted.

Nathan is bought up by his devoted but sometimes exasperated mother, Julie (Sally Hawkins). Realising she can’t help Nathan develop his mathematical abilities, Julie takes Nathan out of primary school and enlists him in the local high school. Here he is befriended by maths teacher Mr Humphreys (Rafe Spall).

Several years later Nathan (Asa Butterfield), aged 15, is competing for a position on the UK team for the International Mathematics Olympiad. Nathan wins the place and forms rather awkward relationships with several other competitors, including Isaac (Alex Lawther), Rebecca (Alexa Davies) and Luke (Jake Davies).

The UK team travel to Taiwan to take part in an international maths camp. Here Nathan strikes up an unexpected friendship with Chinese competitor Zhang Mei (Jo Yang), who is able to entice Nathan out of his shell.

Themes

Autism spectrum disorder; death of a parent; multiple sclerosis

Violence

X + Y has a fatal car crash, self-harm and verbal violence. For example:

  • Several scenes throughout the movie replay the car accident in which Nathan’s father is killed. A van slams into the side of a car, causing the car to roll over. Nine-year-old Nathan is sitting in the passenger seat, and drops of blood splatter across his face. Later there are flashbacks that show Nathan’s father dead in the driver’s seat with blood running down his face and a young Nathan looking on. In one flashback scene Nathan’s mother opens the driver door and screams in distress when she sees her dead husband. 
  • One scene shows a teenage boy repeatedly pricking his thumb with the point of a compass. The scene shows minimal blood. Later the same boy appears with several bloody cuts to the length of his arm, which he is trying to wash in a sink. Nathan walks in as the boy is washing his arm. The boy tells Nathan that he has done this before but not this bad and that he lost control this time. Nathan appears to be disturbed about what he is seeing and being told.
  • In one scene an uncle shouts angrily at his niece, telling her that she is a disgrace to their family and that she has let him down.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, X + Y has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example:

  • Scenes of the car crash will disturb children in this age group.
  • At Michael’s graveside, Nathan refuses to hold his mother’s hand and runs off in distress. Julie is distressed and crying.
  • Mr Humphreys has multiple sclerosis. He walks with a severe limp and uses a walking stick. The limp gets progressively worse throughout the movie.
  • In an emotionally charged scene, a multiple sclerosis sufferer in group therapy discusses his fears about losing independence and control of his body.
  • An adolescent boy has an emotional breakdown in front of a group of peers.
  • The teenage Nathan breaks down with grief about the death of his father.
  • A young Nathan stands at the kitchen sink. He is holding a goldfish in his hand and watching it wriggling as the sink fills with water and overflows onto the kitchen floor. His mother rushes into the kitchen, slips in the water and crashes into Nathan, knocking the fish from his hand. Nathan runs from the kitchen, leaving the fish wriggling on the kitchen floor.

From 8-13
Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.

Over 13
Younger children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.

Sexual references

X + Y has some low-level sexual references and innuendo. For example:

  • In one scene a teacher uses a swear word to a nine-year-old student, and the student asks him what the word means. 
  • After a man suffering with multiple sclerosis kisses a woman, he tells her, ‘There’s only so far I can go in this situation. I wouldn’t want to disappoint’. 
  • A man tells Nathan that Nathan needs to focus and not be distracted by the Chinese girl. 
  • Nathan tells his mother that a girl likes him. His mother says, ‘That’s a good thing’. Nathan tells her that he is confused by both the girl’s behaviour and his own reaction. He is unsure about his own feelings and says that his mind and body work differently when he is with the girl.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

X + Y shows some use of substances. For example:

  • In one scene several teenage boys are in the schoolyard with what looks like a cannabis cigarette.
  • A teacher confiscates the cigarette then lights and smokes it. In several other scenes throughout the movie, the teacher is shown smoking cannabis. 
  • In a couple of scenes a man is shown taking anti-depressant pills. In one scene the man asks a doctor for more antidepressant pills, saying that his have been stolen from his car.
  • Characters drink socially with meals.

Nudity and sexual activity

X + Y has some sexual activity. For example:

  • A flashback scene shows Julie kissing Michael on the lips. Later in the movie Julie passionately kisses another man, and they both overbalance and fall to the floor. 
  • Characters flirt with each other.
  • In one scene a girl enters Nathan’s bedroom while he is in bed. Both Nathan and the girl are wearing pyjamas. She gets into bed with him and cuddles up to him, holding his hand. The girl kisses Nathan quickly on the lips, which seems to distress him. The girl kisses Nathan a second time. He appears less distressed, and the girl asks, ‘Is that all right?’ She kisses Nathan a third time, and he kisses her back awkwardly. The scene cuts to the morning and shows Nathan and the girl both asleep in bed wearing pyjamas. No sexual activity is inferred.

Product placement

None of concern

Coarse language

X + Y has some coarse language and name-calling throughout. 

Ideas to discuss with your children

X + Y is a drama about a teenage maths prodigy with autism spectrum disorder. It is inspired by the 2007 documentary Beautiful Young Minds.

This movie is best suited to teenagers and adults. There are disturbing scenes and themes, including the death of a parent in a car crash, autism spectrum disorder, self-harm and multiple sclerosis. It also has coarse language. These aspects of the movie make it unsuitable for children under 13 years. We also recommend parental guidance for children aged 13-15 years. 

These are the main messages from this movie:

  • Being different is more acceptable if you’re gifted.
  • Young people with autism spectrum disorder have difficulties with social communication.
  • When someone loves you they see something in you they value and it adds value to you. 
  • It’s important to have a mentor to support you.

You could talk with your children about the social and behavioural difficulties faced by young people with autism spectrum disorder.