Making the Grades
DIRECTOR RON HOWARD delves into the delusional world of paranoid schizophrenia in A Beautiful Mind. Based on the tortured life of mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr., Howard champions the man who teeters on greatness, falls victim to a mental illness and fights back to accept the Noble Prize in 1994.
In 1947, Nash (Russell Crowe) enters the halls of Princeton as a graduate student with the handpicked top thinkers of his time. Obsessed with finding an original thought, he shuns classes and schoolmates to scribble scientific notes on the windowpanes of his boarding room and the library. His extraordinary reasoning abilities eventually lead him to the discovery of a revolutionary economic theory, but his deficient social graces and odd behaviors make him a campus outcast with most of his peers. Befriended by his boisterous roommate, Charles (Paul Bettany), the gifted mathematician goes on to earn a doctorate degree and takes up teaching at MIT. After the Pentagon uses his code-breaking skills to decipher incoming enemy messages, a furtive CIA agent, William Parcher (Ed Harris), recruits Nash for a top-secret military operation.
In the meantime, the studious bachelor is smitten by the romantic advances of one of his students who coaxes the tentative teacher into the heady and illogical world of love. But shortly after marrying Alicia (Jennifer Connelly), the lines between reality and fantasy begin to blur with frightening uncertainty.
While the unsettling depictions of early medical treatments, domestic disruptions caused by his disease, a scene of heavy gunfire, and inclusion of moderate language make this remarkable story better suited for families with older teens, the film unfolds a world where nothing is sure. Strong performances by Crowe, Connelly and Harris give credit to the real life sufferers who function in a society where mental illness is often eschewed.
Battling his delusions and fears with snippets of humor and a penchant for logic, Nash struggles to bring reason and value to a life haunted by unseen demons and in time learns to trust in the exponential and intuitive power of love.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about A Beautiful Mind.
What are some examples of Nash using humor to deal with his illness? Do you think humor can assist in the healing process?
How did Alicia deal with her husband’s schizophrenia? How does her commitment to their marriage affect the way she reacts to her husband’s plight? Do you think her choices affected the outcome of Nash’s illness?
To read Nash’s own brief account of his life’s experiences, go to www.nobel.se/economics/laureates/1994/nash-autobio.html. For a general overview of what schizophrenia is and what symptoms accompany the disease, see www.schizophrenia.com/family/schizintro.html