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UKScreen Rating:

Proof – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

After the death of her father Robert (Hopkins), Catherine (Paltrow) finds herself living alone in the large house they used to share, close to the university where he lectured in Mathmatics.
One of his pupils, Hal (Gyllenhaal), is rummaging around in Robert’s notebooks to see if he’d managed to complete any worth-while work during his latter years, which had been plagued by dementia.
Eureka – he finds a proof so exciting that he’s desparate to get it published, but suddenly, there’s doubt about whether Robert wrote it at all. Could it have been the work of Catherine?
Hal’s work, to prove who wrote the proof, is made more difficult when Catherine’s own sanity is questioned and her sister Claire (Davis) tries to get her to move out of the house, so that she can sell it.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

Maths can be a beautiful thing – to mathmaticians, these complex proofs are like works of art, but to everyone else, the sight of a lengthy string of numbers, symbols and letters (mostly Greek!) is likely to leave them rather cold.
Unlike Darren Aranofsky’s Pi, this film never tries to explain what’s so important about the proof in question, so one potential level of enjoyment or excitement is ruled out from the start.
We’re left to concentrate on the interpersonal relationships, so what have we got? A ratty woman, possibly insane, failing to cope with the loss of her father and the resulting interference from her estranged sister. And if that’s not irritating enough, she has a cool-dude, university-band drummer, searching through notebooks in her attic.
That the film is based on a play is blatantly clear – there are scenes where a character would leave the room just as another arrives, and as that new character leaves, the first one returns – as if the stage isn’t big enough to have two conversations going on at once.
Paltrow is particularly whiney in the role – that it came soon after the death of her own father gives her performance added emotion – but maybe too much. Gyllenhaal’s character doesn’t really have much room to do anything – just swanning in and out as the plot requires.
The film isn’t particularly unlikeable – it’s just nothing like as gripping or inspiring as it thinks it is.
It’s meant to challenge your perceptions of being and existence, but all it proves is that without a strong enough plot, characters as likeable as they are believeable or at least an interesting hook, you won’t experience anything like the excitement Hal got when he first stumbled across the eponymous proof.

Opens 10 Feb 2006

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