This film was inspired by the true story of mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr., who was one of three Nobelists celebrated in 1994 for their work in game theory. The film is driven by the agonizing conflict between Nash’s mathematical brilliance and the paranoid schizophrenia which almost destroys both his career and his marriage to Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly). The film shows Nash (Russell Crowe) as obsessed and, in schizophrenic episodes, delusional and occasionally violent. He undergoes 1950s insulin shots and later is on and off pills that seem to take away his brilliance along with his schizophrenia.

Late in the film he is off medication and says, in effect, that he has decided not to be deluded by delusions. The film ends with a triumphant series of scenes around the Nobel Prize, including the tribute of his colleagues at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study and Nash’s emotional Nobel acceptance speech at Stockholm expressing his gratitude to his wife for standing by him.


It is a good thing to have the difficulties of schizophrenia played out sympathetically before large audiences by an actor of Russell Crowe’s standing, good for viewers to understand not only some of the terrors of schizophrenia, but also that this illness can be fought and that some schizophrenics may lead lives that have value for them and for others as well. An uncritical viewing, however, would lead to too rosy a view of schizophrenia and of Nash’s struggle with it.

Many if not most schizophrenics, even if they understand their condition, cannot reason themselves out of their delusions as the film’s Nash says he has done. The actual Nash was apparently helped in the later years of his struggle by the chemical effects of aging, something that most schizophrenics do not benefit from. Before that, he was disabled by his condition for many years, and his marriage, in fact, did not survive his schizophrenia--although, remarkably, he and Alicia remarried recently after having been divorced for almost forty years.

And in reality there was no Nobel acceptance speech, Nash not having been invited to give one because of concern over his highly eccentric behavior. Finally, the film leaves open a possible connection between Nash’s schizophrenia and his brilliance as a mathematician. Whatever the truth in Nash’s case, schizophrenia--unlike bipolar disorder, which is often associated with creativity--typically involves distortions in cognition that make its "insights" difficult to connect with consensus reality.


The film was inspired by Sylvia Nazar's biography of Nash, A Beautiful Mind: A Biography of John Forbes Nash, Jr. (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1998), although screenplay author Akiva Goldsman departed from the original enough to be given a "written by" (as opposed to "screenplay by") in the film's credits. The film won many awards, including Oscars and Golden Globes for best picture, best director, best supporting actress, best screenplay; and Golden Globes for best actor and best original score.

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