Image for Proof

Reeling from her mathematician father’s death, Catherine (Gwyneth Paltrow) gets involved with a student, Hal (Jake Gyllenhaal), and argues with her sister (Hope Davis), who fears for her mental health. When a genius mathematical proof is found in her fath


Based on David Auburn’s play, Proof wears its theatrical origins on its sleeve, with a small cast, modest locations and act-based structure. None of this lessens the film’s impact: this exploration of a woman’s grief and mental struggle is best set in a claustrophobic environment with few characters to crowd her out.

By staying close to Catherine (Gwyneth Paltrow) and gradually revealing her story by flashback, this beckons us deep into both her internal and external worlds. We want to believe in her sanity, but are forced to question it — perhaps like Catherine herself. Paltrow does an excellent job as the shy loner, affecting youthful, sulky mannerisms without resorting to stereotype. Anthony Hopkins, meanwhile, brings both gravitas and dark humour as Catherine’s mentally ill father, while Jake Gyllenhaal makes for an effective, if buff, maths geek.

That Proof spends little time on maths may come as a relief to some, but it makes the film’s centrepiece — the proof itself — something of a mystery, undermining the plot’s impact. Those who prefer character drama to number-crunching, however, will be well-served by this brooding tale.

A subtle, slow-burning mystery that does justice to its themes of identity, sanity and sacrifice.