A Beautiful Mind (2001) Review

A Beautiful Mind (2001) Director: Ron Howard

A Beautiful Mind Poster.jpg

★★★☆☆

A Beautiful Mind was the winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2001, and deservedly so. The screenplay was based on the 1998 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of the same name by Sylvia Nasar.

The film tells the story of the genius, John Nash, as he rises from academia at Princeton University in the 1940s developing unique mathematical theories of governance, to his work at MIT and eventually becoming a code-breaker at the Pentagon. However, we start to learn of Nash’s obsessive internal struggles as he believes himself to be solving secret Soviet riddles published in plain sight in magazines and newspapers and other innocuous everyday items. Meanwhile Nash falls in love and is married, but he soon has a paranoid breakdown while delivering a lecture at Harvard. He thinks Russian agents are chasing after him. Nash is taken away and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. His wife is notified and she uncovers the odd documents that Nash delivered to a secret mailbox he believed was helping the State Department (in partnership with fictional characters in his mind). He starts undergoing shock therapy and is given strong medication which he eventually stops taking and shortly thereafter he he is visited by phantasms of the State Department again. He relapses and nearly kills his own baby in the bathtub. At this point his wife and baby flee for their own safety, at which point Nash realizes his hallucinations are dangerously false because they never age. Nash returns to Princeton to conduct research. He learns to ignore his hallucinations and eventually he is allowed to teach again. The film closes as he wins a Nobel Prize, with all of his hallucinations watching him up to the end.

A Beautiful Mind has been met with some criticism for failing to accurately portray Nash’s other family and his child born out of wedlock and so on. But these criticisms should largely be ignored. It was nominated for a flurry of Academy Awards, winning some of the most coveted, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress. The true John Nash and his wife died in a car accident while riding in a taxi on the New Jersey turnpike in 2015.

John Forbes Nash, Jr. by Peter Badge.jpg

The true John Nash

Russell Crowe delivers a fantastic performance in his role as John Nash. Even though the film’s story diverges significantly from Nash’s real life, the film is still beautifully organized and is at least in the spirit of Nash’s life, a fact which author Sylvia Nasar admitted. In truth, Nash never actually worked for the Pentagon (he worked for the RAND Corporation), hardly any of the characters besides Nash and his wife correspond to real people, Nash actually had an affair and impregnated a nurse from the RAND Corporation whom he later abandoned, and he and his wife actually divorced though rekindled their relationship after he won the Nobel prize. They divorced in 1963 but she allowed him to continue living with her in the 1990s and they remarkably remarried in 2001. Nash never took any more medications after the 1970s and he never delivered a speech for his Nobel prize. Despite the sensational liberties taken with this film, A Beautiful Mind is still an excellent and enjoyable film.

One response to “A Beautiful Mind (2001) Review”

  1. This film was my first understanding of what schizophrenia actually is and how nightmarish it can be for all those afflicted by it. It’s no surprise that A Beautiful Mind won the Oscar for Best Picture, even with big competition like The Lord Of The Rings: Part 1 and Gosford Park. Thank you for your review.

    Liked by 1 person

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