Australian Council on Children and the Media

X + Y

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Not recommended under 13; parental guidance recommended 13-15 due to disturbing scenes and themes, and coarse language.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for X + Y
  • a review of X + Y completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 2 April 2015.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended due to disturbing scenes, and themes and coarse language
Children 13 to 15 Parental guidance recommended due to disturbing scenes and themes
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: X + Y
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes and coarse language
Length 111 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Nine-year-old Nathan Ellis (Edward Baker-Close) is assessed as being on the Autism Spectrum. He is sensitive, detached and a maths prodigy, fixated on complex mathematical patterns. Nathan avoids touch and finds it challenging to interact socially. The only person that he connects with is his father Michael (Martin McCann) and when Nathan witnesses his father’s death in a car accident, he is traumatised and becomes more introverted.

Nathan is bought up by his devoted, but at times exasperated, mother Julie (Sally Hawkins). Realising she is not able to help Nathan to develop his mathematical mind, Julie takes Nathan out of primary school and enlists him in the local high school where he is befriended by maths teacher Mr Humphreys (Rafe Spall).

Several years later we find Nathan (Asa Butterfield), now 15, competing to gain a position on the UK team for the International Mathematics Olympiad. Nathan wins his place and manages to form a somewhat awkward relationship with several other competitors including Isaac (Alex Lawther), Rebecca (Alexa Davies) and Luke (Jake Davies).

The UK team travel to Taiwan to take part in an international maths camp and here Nathan strikes up an unexpected friendship with Chinese competitor Zhang Mei (Jo Yang), who is able to entice Nathan out of his protective shell.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Autism spectrum disorder; death of a parent; Multiple Sclerosis

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

The film contains a fatal car crash, self-harm, and verbal violence. Examples include:

  • Several scenes throughout the film replay the car accident in which Nathan’s father is killed. A van slams into the side of a car, causing the car to roll over. Nine-year-old Nathan is sitting in the passenger’s seat with drops of blood splattered across his face. Later in the film we see flashbacks of the accident with Nathan’s father dead in the driver’s seat with blood running down his face as a young Nathan looks on. In one flashback scene we see Nathan’s mother opening the driver’s door and screaming in distress when she sees her dead husband.
  • One scene depicts an adolescent male repeatedly pricking his thumb with the point of a compass; minimal blood is depicted. Later in the film the same boy is seen with several bloody cuts to the length of his arm which he is attempting to wash in a sink. Nathan walks in on the boy as he is washing his arm and the boy tells Nathan that he has done this before but not this bad and that he lost control. Nathan appears to be disturbed about what he is seeing and being told.
  • In one scene an uncle shouts angrily at his niece, telling her that she is a disgrace to their family and that she has let him down.    

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Scenes of the car crash (see above) would disturb children in this age group.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

  • At Michael’s graveside. Nathan refuses to hold his mother’s hand and runs off in distress; Julie is distressed and crying.
  • Mr Humphreys has multiple sclerosis and walks with a severe limp and uses a walking stick. The limp gets progressively worse throughout the course of the film.
  • In an emotionally charged scene a multiple sclerosis sufferer in group therapy discusses his fears about losing independence and control of his body.
  • An adolescent boy has an emotional breakdown in front of a group of peers.  
  • Nathan as an adolescent breaks down with grief in relation to the death of his father.
  • A young Nathan stands at the kitchen sink holding a goldfish in his hand and watching it wriggling as the sink fills with water and overflows on to the kitchen floor. His mother rushes into the kitchen, slips in the water and crashes into Nathan, knocking the fish from his hand. Nathan runs from the kitchen, leaving the fish wriggling on the kitchen floor.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

The film contains some low-level sexual references and innuendo. Examples include:

  • In one scene a teacher says to a nine-tear-old student, “Fucking do it!” to which the student replies “What does fucking mean?”
  • After a man suffering with multiple sclerosis kisses a woman he tells her “There’s only so far I can go in this situation... I wouldn’t want to disappoint”.
  • Nathan is told by a man that he needs to focus and not to be distracted by the Chinese girl.
  • Nathan tells his mother that a girl likes him. His mother tells him “That’s a good thing”. Nathan confides that he is confused by both the girl’s behaviour and his own reaction. He is unsure about his own feelings and says that his mind and body work differently when he is with the girl. 

Nudity and sexual activity

The film contains some sexual activity. Examples include:

  • A flashback scene depicts Julie kissing Michael on the lips. Later in the film we see Julie passionately kissing another man and they both overbalance and fall to the floor.
  • Some flirting
  • In one scene a girl enters Nathan’s bedroom while he is in bed, she gets into bed with him (both are in pyjamas) and cuddles up to him, holding his hand. The girl kisses Nathan quickly on the lips, which seems to distress him. The girl kisses Nathan a second time. He appears less distressed and the girl asks Nathan “Is that right?” She kisses Nathan a third time and he kisses her back awkwardly. The scene cuts to the morning where we find Nathan and the girl both asleep in bed wearing pyjamas. No sexual activity is inferred. 

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • In one scene we see a group of several teenage boys in the school yard with what appears to be a cannabis cigarette. A teacher discovers confiscates the cigarette then lights and smokes it. In several other scenes throughout the film the same teacher is depicted smoking cannabis.
  • In a couple of scenes a man is depicted taking pills from a bottle (anti-depressants). In one scene the same man is depicted asking a doctor for more anti-depressant pills telling the doctor that his had been stolen from his car.
  • Social drinking with a meal.

Coarse language

The film contains some coarse language and name calling scattered throughout. Examples include:

  • “Piss off”; piece of piss, “shit”;  “fuck”; Jesus Christ
  • Insults including “nosey”;  “weird arse”; “dickhead”; “charming little bastard”

In a nutshell

X + Y, a drama about a schoolboy maths prodigy with Autism, was inspired by the 2007 documentary Beautiful Young Minds.  It is best suited to adolescents and adults. There are disturbing scenes and themes, and coarse language, which make it unsuitable for children under 13. Themes include the death of a parent in a car crash, Autism Spectrum Disorder, self-harm and Multiple Sclerosis. Parental guidance is recommended for the 13-15 age group.

The main messages from this movie are:

  • Being different is more acceptable if you are gifted.
  • Young people with autism find it difficult to fit into to mainstream society.
  • When someone loves you they see something in you they value and it adds value to you.
  • The importance of having a mentor to support you  


Parents may wish to talk to their children about the social and behavioural difficulties faced by young people on the Autism Spectrum.

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