A Beautiful MindTonight, thanks to a tip from MC (to whom thanks), we watched Ron Howard’s 2001 biographical drama, A Beautiful Mind, based on the life of John Nash, A Nobel Laureate in Economics (well, if improbably, played by Russell Crowe). With a brilliant mathematical brain, Nash comes under academic pressure to produce. The stress induces paranoid schizophrenia, leading on to increasingly frequent and ultimately continuous delusional episodes. His wife and young child struggle to cope. He is incarcerated, treated, released, suffers a relapse, becomes inadvertently violent, gradually comes to terms with his delusions (ultimately cohabiting with them), and in later life is rehabilitated at Princeton and awarded the Nobel accolade for his youthful original work on governing dynamics. I don’t want to give too much away, but the film uses the oldest trick in the book, POV (point of view – think The Sixth Sense or Shutter Island), to draw viewers into a delusional world, then jolt them back into reality. There was a discussion afterwards about mental illness and concepts of reality. The person suffering the delusions perceives them as being real. Which reality is the more valid and on what basis? The film also raises the issue of evolving societal attitudes. In past times a Nash might have been considered a seer or a prophet or a saint (indeed, at the beginning, at Princeton, he is half-mocked, half revered for displaying the eccentricity of potential genius). And when does treatment become persecution, or do both attitudes necessarily co-exist?  The film was criticised for its ‘poetic licence’ (for example, the real Nash suffered only auditory delusions, Crowe’s Nash sees people as well as hearing them), but that debate is something of a red herring. Like Shine, the film works as a plausible portrayal of a difficult condition and reminds us that all too often genius comes at a heavy price. (Postscript: here, thanks also to MC, is an article about the real John Nash by his biographer, Sylvia Nasar.)