Friday, March 5, 2010


Movie Review : Proof
Released : 2005
Director: John Madden
Genre : Drama
Starring : Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hope Davis
My Rating : 10 out of 10

Movies based on stage plays feel very different than other movies. Much of the story happens in limited settings, the focus is completely on characters and dialogues replace action. I have a strong bias towards such movies.

In addition, Proof is about mathematicians. Being in love with Math, I definitely was predisposed to liking this movie. But objectively, is this a good movie ? Yes, a strong resounding yes. In fact, in this genre, it's near perfect.

The story is simple. A famous mathematician Robert (Anthony Hopkins) - well past his prime, and suffering from dementia - has died. His daughter Catherine (Gwyneth Paltrow) gave up her career as a mathematician to take care of her father in his dying years. Catherine's older sister (Hope Davis), who stayed away for all this time to pursue her career, comes back to take care of practical matters. In the meanwhile, Robert's student Hal (Jake Gyllenhaal) goes over a pile of notebooks he finds in Robert's room, to see if there is anything worthwhile. And he finds a remarkable proof. Did Robert really write that ? Or was it Catherine ?

It's not much of suspense. But it's presented in a non-linear order and clues are offered via flashbacks, and hence there is a tiny bit of suspense for first half of the movie.

While the suspense if not the reason to watch this movie, Math is not the reason to avoid this movie. There is very little math-speak in the movie. There is almost nothing about the actual proof. Based on the very vague hints given in the movie, we can only speculate for fun about the topic. Could it be Goldbach's conjecture ? Riemann Hypothesis ? Doesn't really matter.

The movie is definitely about Catherine. And her interactions with 3 people in her life. Her father, her sister and her boyfriend. This is the core of the movie, and it shines brightly there. I was also particularly happy about the way her sister's character is portrayed in the script and played admirably by Hope Davis.

Gwyneth Paltrow gives an unbelievably breathtaking performance to bring out so many shades of Catherine's personality. She is strong at times, but very vulnerable at other times. She knows she is a genius, but sometimes wonders if she is mad. She knows her sister means well, but she is frustrated by the lack of understanding. Her acting is just perfect. Director John Madden teamed up with her before ,in "Shakespeare in Love", and although that movie is far better known, I think Proof is way much better for both of them.

Why are there so few women mathematicians ? That's a controversial subject. Proof does not really address it directly. But keep the question in mind, and you will understand Catherine better.

I haven't watched the Pulitzer winning play on which this movie is based. To me this is as perfect as movies can be. This is a must see movie for every serious fan of this art.

1 comment:

  1. we saw this movie today. Loved it. Agree that this is a delight to anyone who loved mathematics. And Gwyneth Paltrow so deserved the oscar for this one. thanks for the review!


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