A Beautiful Mind is the story of John F. Nash, Jr., a mathematician who, after a long battle with schizophrenia, goes on to win the Nobel Prize for economics. Earnestly played by Best Actor Oscar nominee Russell Crowe, the movie opens with Nash as an introverted, misanthropic Princeton student obsessed with finding a theory that will immortalize him. With the help of his genial roommate, Charles (Paul Bettany), Nash develops stronger social connections and the economic theory that will win him the Nobel Prize decades later.
After graduation, Nash meets and marries Alicia (Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Jennifer Connelly), who further humanizes him. Nash’s knack for determining patterns in just about anything charms Alicia, and also catches the eye of an FBI agent (Ed Harris) on the trail of Communist spies. Nash’s life seems ideal until his schizophrenia emerges and begins to disrupt all of the carefully arranged patterns of his life. I will not reveal the extent to how schizophrenia affects his grip on reality, but the revelations and the ensuing effects present Nash with a problem he cannot solve.
Watching the film, I was struck by the recurring theme of Nash’s search for order. Whether he is finding new constellations or trying to reason with his mental illness, Nash desperately tries to bring structure to his world. Crowe is amazingly absorbed in his role, always making Nash sympathetic and fascinating. The love story between Crowe and Connelly, as they desperately try to keep their marriage together, forms the heart and soul of the movie.
Compelling as Nash’s story is, it should be noted that heavy artistic license has been taken with the facts. The Nash marriage ended in divorce, Nash’s emotional Nobel acceptance speech is pure fiction, and, most unsettling, Alicia’s Hispanic ethnicity has been changed to Caucasian. Despite these distortions, the performances are compelling, and the story is a completely absorbing and unique character study.