Madden and Platrow worked on this story together on the stage and it shows in the intimate nature of this adaptation.
John Madden obviously knows which buttons to push when dealing with Gwyneth Paltrow. He makes her character, Catherine, withdrawn, bookish and downright difficult with anyone and everything. Catherine loses her father (Anthony Hopkins) and spends most of the film protecting his considerable assets and dealing with her loss. But her few moments of brightness and tenderness are precious and enlightening and make Proof a delightful surprise.
That director and lead worked on this story together on the stage and it shows in the intimate nature of the film adaptation. Catherine’s personal experiences over many years become rudely public after her father’s death, and she has to face new love, family and the wider world in more ways than one.
As a study of death and the effects thereof for those left behind, Proof shows very simply how even though we would like to mourn in private, sooner or later we’re forced to acknowledge the public gaze and realities of life.
The subject matter; complex mathematical equations forming the 'proof' that is the path followed to solving far-reaching solutions, is captivating in the sense that any field of endeavour put under the microscope that shows the best (and worst) of mankind is addictive viewing.
However, any more detail on the maths and the story would have gone the wrong way and thankfully the story chooses to focus on the relationship dynamic between father, daughter (in retrospect), sister and boyfriend, which although obvious, is touching for it’s innocence.
Hopkins is his usual sturdy self, effectively blurring the line between genius and madness, extrovert and hermit. Whilst his work is the core of the film, his character remains a support to Paltrow’s immature, lonely central character. As does Jake Gyllenhaal’s love interest and sycophant to the dead genius.
While Gyllenhaal appears limp and unfulfilled in his role as mathematics student, Davis shines in her’s as the NY-based corporate brat who swoops into Chicago to take command of the funeral and her sister’s future. She provides the bite to Paltrow’s sorrow and is the white-collar, deadline-obsessed answer to bohemian-style academia.
There is an obvious comparison with A Beautiful Mind but whilst that is a study of the twisted inner-mind of a genius over a lifetime, Proof dips its toe into a family drama. This is easy viewing with a sentimental edge – no calculators required.
Ready for calculated, master-teaches-student-all-he-knows fulfillment.
Unexpected, satisfying and touching.
Cosy Sunday night in when the weather’s crap but you wanna feel warm.