Asa Butterfield as Nathan, Jo Yang as Zhang Mei © Origin Pictures

X+Y, a warm inspirational drama about an autistic maths prodigy who begins to experience the world differently under the guidance of an unconventional maths teacher, was released at cinemas across the UK on Friday 13th March 2015. X+Y is the first feature drama from BAFTA-winning documentary director Morgan Matthews. Screen Yorkshire invested in X+Y through its Yorkshire Content Fund. It filmed at a wide range of locations in Sheffield in 2013, with additional scenes filmed in Cambridge and Taiwan.

Inspired by his 2007 documentary Beautiful Young Minds, the film stars Asa Butterfield (Ender’s Game, Hugo, The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas) as Nathan, a child genius with autism who loses his father at a young age. Asa is flanked by a stellar British cast including; Rafe Spall (Prometheus), Sally Hawkins (Paddington) and Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes) as mentor, mother and mathematician respectively.

Beautiful Young Minds, which screened in 2007, featured the story of then teenager Daniel Lightwing, who is from Warthill, near York. The documentary told the story of some of the brightest mathematical brains of a generation. Daniel, who was 17 at the time of filming, was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. The fictional adaptation, X+Y, is inspired largely by Daniel’s true life story. Daniel spent a year training with the UK maths squad, teaching English in China and travelling. His love of China, its language and his marriage to Yan Zhu, a Chinese girl, featured on Beautiful Young Minds and has many similarities with X+Y.

Asa Butterfield as Nathan. Image: Nick Wall © Origin Pictures

X+Y follows Nathan as he wins a spot on the British team for the International Mathematics Olympiad. Faced with a trip to Taiwan, the young prodigy must cope with the challenges of his disorder. At home, he must deal with the budding relationship between his mother and tutor, a storyline reuniting Spall and Hawkins after their onstage pairing in the award-winning Constellations.


X+Y filmed at a range of locations in Sheffield, including: High Storrs School , Sheffield Town Hall, Thornbury BMI Hospital, King Edward VII School, Rails Train Shop, Aston Hotel, Crookes Cemetary, University of Sheffield and High Storrs Drive. Additional scenes were shot in Cambridge and Taiwan.

X+Y is produced by David M Thompson (Mandela) and Laura Hastings-Smith (Hunger). Co-producer is Origin Pictures’ Ed Rubin and execs are Hugo Heppell, Christine Langan, Joe Oppenheimer, Phil Hunt, Compton Ross and Lizzie Francke.

X+Y is an Origin Pictures production for BBC Films & BFI in association with Head Gear Films & Metrol Technology, Screen Yorkshire and LipSync. Bankside Films is handling international sales. Creative England supported the production with filming premissions, locations and crew.

Asa Butterfield as Nathan © Origin Pictures


For most of us, equations are just a means to an end. But for teenage math prodigy Nathan (Asa Butterfield), they’re a way of life. Diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum when he was a little boy, Nathan has always struggled to relate to people, even to his ever-loving and patient widowed mother, Julie (Sally Hawkins). Numbers (especially prime ones) are the only things that make sense to him. But when attentive teacher Mr. Humphreys (Rafe Spall) takes an interest in Nathan’s talents, doors begin to open.

Mr. Humphreys’s unorthodox teaching methods help land Nathan a spot on Great Britain’s team at the International Mathematics Olympiad, and the young math whiz finds himself travelling to a training camp in Taipei. Under the blustery guidance of squad leader Richard (Eddie Marsan), this group of socially awkward teens discovers that they might not be as weird as they thought themselves to be.