out of Five
Running time: 100
Involving, impressively acted drama that doesn’t try too hard to disguise its stagebound origins.
Proof is based on the critically acclaimed play by David Auburn and reunites Gwyneth Paltrow with Shakespeare in Love
director John Madden, who also directed her in the Donmar Warehouse production of the original play. With director and star both so familiar with the play it’s not surprising to find that the screen version is both compelling and moving, even if it is, essentially, about maths.
Gwyneth Paltrow plays Catherine, a young woman who has spent the past five years caring for her recently deceased father, Robert (Anthony Hopkins), a maths genius and academic legend, whose deteriorating mental health brought his career to an untimely end. Things get worse when Catherine’s overachieving sister Claire (Hope Davis) flies in to take care of the funeral arrangements instantly reminding her of why they never really got along very well.
As if Catherine didn’t have enough on her plate, what with staving off a mental breakdown and Claire’s meddling, she also has to deal with Hal (Jake Gyllenhaal), one of her father’s students who is convinced Robert’s many journals may yet yield a posthumous breakthrough work. However, Catherine is a gifted mathematician in her own right and when Hal makes an important discovery, she begins to worry whether she has inherited her father’s insanity or his genius.
Of course, the play isn’t really all about maths at all, but rather about the links between genius and madness and, of course, the nature of family. The dialogue is well-written, if extremely theatrical, and there are some funny lines amidst all the wallowing.
Paltrow is superb as Catherine, brilliantly conveying a character who is teetering on the edge. Jake Gyllenhaal brings a certain geeky sweetness and enthusiasm to his role as Hal. There’s also genuine chemistry between him and Gwyneth, even if she seems a little too old for him.
As for Hopkins, he lets other people do the shouting for a change, turning in a performance that is both understated and quietly effective.
In short, Proof is a compelling drama with gorgeous photography, a superb score and strong performances. Don’t be surprised if it ends up with an Oscar nomination or two. Recommended.