Proof

David Auburn
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
£17.99
(2006)

Proof may star Hollywood's latest blonde goddess, Gwyneth Paltrow, heartthrob Jake Gyllenhaal and former Hannibal Lecter but now cuddly bear Anthony Hopkins, but it is hardly the normal candyfloss offered up by the big studios.

The film started British life as a sell-out play at the Donmar Warehouse, starring Miss Paltrow with British support. The journey of this touching tale of love amongst theoretical mathematicians from stage to screen is elucidated in one of the additional features offered on the DVD.

In addition to the love element, Proof is a mathematical detective story and psychological drama. The crux of the drama is the question as to whether its main protagonist, Catherine, has inherited her father's genius, his madness or strands of both.

As in the stage version, Miss Paltrow is directed by Englishman John Madden, with whom she also worked on Shakespeare in Love. She surprised many with her prowess as a stage actress and is equally powerful on celluloid. Once again, she gives an absolutely top-notch performance in a part they cannot have been easy, playing a woman struggling to come to terms with life and death.

The ostensible subject-matter of Proof is something to make geeks go wild, or possibly more appropriately, mad. Anthony Hopkins plays Robert Llewellyn, an ageing man whose life peaked at 21 when he discovered a series of mathematical proofs that stunned this introverted academic world.

However, like the best chess players, he was soon over the hill and, while he managed to hold down a job as a university professor, that inexplicable spark appeared to have gone forever.

Even so, Robert worked on and proved an inspiration to many young students. At his death, one of them, Gyllenhaal's very handsome and rather too sane Hal, was an acolyte torn between the father's mind and the physical attractions of his devoted 27 year-old daughter, Catherine.

Despite her finest efforts, Gwyneth Paltrow struggles to look dowdy. She does her best though, portraying a young woman who may be replicating her father's fifteen minutes of inspiration or could, as her boringly domesticated sister, Hope Davis' Claire, believes, be toppling over the edge into the insanity that continues to plague the old man.

John Madden, who wrote the gripping screenplay with Rebecca Miller, cleverly links different time lines so that we see Catherine's struggle to be a normal college student, her efforts to look after an increasingly dotty father but also get a feel for what it must be like to be on the edge of an earth-shattering scientific revelation.

Proof has far more to offer than another understated romance between beautiful people. With its big-name glamour, deep insight into the psychology of the main characters and a look at a world that very few will have the privilege to share, that offers something for the geek in us all, this DVD should deservedly prove very popular.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher