A Review of John Nash’s Movie, a Beautiful Mind

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A Beautful Mind

Mental illness is a disorder of the brain that results in a disruption of a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, and ability to relate to others. For someone who’s never had a mental illness, it may be hard to imagine what life would be like for someone who does. The film “A Beautiful Mind” is about a mathematician, John Nash, who suffers from schizophrenia. Through his anguish, we gain knowledge of a life with mental illness. It affects every component of your life, and the lives of those close to you.

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The film opens in the late 1940s at Princeton, where John Nash is a young graduate student in mathematics. There Nash does some brilliant original work, but its importance is not immediately widely recognized. His best friend is his roommate, Charles Herman (fictional). In the early 1950s Nash takes a job at M.I.T. that involves both working at the (fictional) Wheeler Defense Labs and teaching classes. He believes he is a spy for the CIA and William Parcher (fictional) is his superior. At M.I.T. he falls in love with and marries a physics student named Alicia Larde. However, Nash's behavior becomes increasingly bizarre, and he is diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia. With Alicia's help, he battles mental illness for many years, and eventually recovers sufficiently to live a more or less normal life. Meanwhile, the importance of the work he did four decades earlier receives wide recognition, and in 1994 Nash is awarded a Nobel Prize.

The Turmoil that John Nash feels in the movie is not unlike the feelings many people go through. My experience with mental illness has recently expanded. A good friend was admitted to a psychiatric hospital with borderline personality disorder. I visited her and now have a better understanding of mental ailments. I was scared to go to the hospital. I had visions of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, but my fear was irrational. No one fit the stigma of “crazy”. They were people trying to help themselves. The hospital is a safe environment to take a break from the stresses of life that can be even more detrimental to a person with a mental disorder. The hospital can also help psychiatrists’ correct medication with constant supervision of the patient.

Like John Nash, my cousin Peter is schizophrenic. I’ve only heard stories of his erratic behavior and paranoia, but I know that he loves his family and friends no matter how severe his symptoms are. Borderline personality disorder, my friend’s condition, is characterized by depression, manic mood swings, and suicidal tendencies. I just learned about her illness and how severe it is. She attempted suicide and had to be resuscitated. She’s afraid to make her disorder public because of society’s opinion of those with mental illnesses. People suffering with psychiatric conditions are stereotypically viewed as crazy and dangerous. Everyone is affected by mental illness, not only the sick and their loves ones. People who label the mentally ill as “crazy” affects those patients negatively, making it harder for them to seek help. This is highlighted in “A Beautiful Mind” with the students’ looks of disgust when John is taken to the mental institution. He is ashamed to even show his face at the school for years. When he does return he is mocked by the students for his strange behavior.

Mental illness not only affects the physical body, but if affects the mind as well. You may believe things that aren’t true, or you may have feelings or despair and suicide. Imagine that you couldn’t even trust your own thoughts and feelings. This is seen in “A Beautiful Mind”. John Nash believes he is working for the CIA, but that does not mean it’s true. It can sometimes be impossible to distinguish fantasy from reality with a mental illness. This is prominent in the movie. John’s schizophrenia creates an alternate reality in his mind. He was faced with the realization that people and memories that were vivid to him never really existed. This comprehension is hard to accept, and John drifts back to his old habits.

It is not exactly known how mental illness occurs. There is evidence supporting the cause as genetic, but there is also evidence that it comes from the environment. Sometimes both are factors. If your family has a history of depression, you are more likely to suffer from the affliction. You could be the only person you know that has depression. Science shows that sometimes illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Medication can be helpful, but finding the right drug, dose, and combination can take years. Therapy is also very useful in the healing process. Patients need to understand, as in John Nash’s case, not everything they know and feel is true. Issues may have stemmed from something in their past. These environmental factors should be worked out by professionals for maximum recovery. Parents play a large part in the mental health of their children. Kids must be loved and nurtured. They should never be abused or made to feel unwanted. This can lower the chances of mental illness caused by the child’s environment.

Mental illness does not challenge my belief in God. Whether the affliction is physical or mental, cancer or schizophrenia, it is God’s will. I feel that we all have a purpose in our lives, and death is when our destiny has been fulfilled. God wants us home with him. He is omnipotent and all powerful. He wants it and it is so. Many people believe prayer can help cure any ailment. Praising God’s name and living his testament leads to a better life in all facets. In the film, what truly saves John is Alicia’s love for him.

John Nash is arrogant when we first meet him. He’s rude, narcissistic, and believes he is intellectually superior. Only when John meets Alicia do we begin to see his true colors. His caring and compassion becomes apparent. I don’t think he’s the villain. John overcoming schizophrenia can be viewed as heroic, but I believe that Alicia is the heroine of this story. Without her love and devotion, John may never have recovered from his illness. It took much strength and courage to stand by him in those trying and sometimes scary times. Alicia is not narcissistic; she is optimistic. Alicia never lost faith in her husband.

John’s illness affects Alicia as much as it does him. Watching her husband suffer is as if she’s enduring it herself. We see this when John receives his first electro shock therapy. Alicia can’t even watch the treatment. Losing him to sickness means losing a part of her. In this way they are interdependent. John’s schizophrenia also alienates him from his wife. When he gets home from the hospital it’s obvious that there’s distance between them. John doesn’t talk about his feelings with Alicia. Maybe he thinks she won’t understand, or he may just be embarrassed. Alicia is therefore also alienated because she is being left out her husband’s life.

I believe that elements of today’s society would be beneficial to John. We live in a very health conscious world. Most Americans see doctors regularly. Our knowledge of mental illness is also more expansive. Unfortunately, society’s perception of mental illness has not changed significantly. Words like psycho and crazy are still used with negative connotation. This limits the freedom of those afflicted. Sufferers have difficulty discussing their illness, even to those close to them. My friend explained to me how ashamed she is of her illness, and how hard it is to talk about. John’s actions show he is ashamed as well. He doesn’t want to return to school, or socialize with his friends. This is not the only limitation of mental illness. Illness can limit a person’s ability to care for themselves and others. It can affect the patient’s sleeping pattern, appetite, and personality. If the sick are in are in a mental ward, they have very little freedom. They are told when to eat, sleep, shower, shave, and may even have to use the bathroom with someone watching. People afflicted with mental illness are unique. They fight daily against a sickness that is not completely understood. Curing mental illness is not an exact science. It can be years of suffering before the right treatment is found.

Under humanity in the Encarta Encyclopedia, it cites human condition, human

nature, and compassion. According to Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of humanity is: the qualities of being human; the peculiar nature of man, by which he is distinguished from other beings. That peculiar nature spoken of is free will, our ability to make informed decisions to do what we want. As we see in the movie, mental illness can decrease this capacity. John lost his free will to schizophrenia. Some of the choices he makes are not his decisions. William Parcher tells John it is imperative he decodes secret messages in magazines and newspapers. John would not have executed this task had William not suggested it. In my opinion, this failure of free will is the only item that makes those afflicted less human. Other sufferers may feel less human, being unable to trust their thoughts. The humility of the disease can also cause disillusionment, but to be human is to have flaws. No one is perfect. It doesn’t make every one of us less human. In addition, I feel no one person can be more human than another. Human nature is everything we do, not only what we let others know.

The film also discusses humanity. John is the most human character in the film because we view mostly his thoughts and feelings. We see his weaknesses, fears, and flaws. Seen also is his love, and eventually, his good nature. The struggle John faces with his illness is arduous but true to life. Everyday, people struggle with anxiety, phobias, and physical disease. This is life. We see the film through John’s eyes and can therefore, sympathize with him.

Mental Illness can consume a person’s life. It affects the physical body, as well as the mind. It puts stress on outside relationships as well. Because of society’s stigmas against psychological disorders, the sick are resistant to seek treatment. While the cause of mental illness is not fully known, we do know that lack of treatment is detrimental. Even if you don’t have a familiarity with mental illness, the humanity of disease may be present in you life through physical ailments or emotional stresses. Though my experiences with mental illness have been minute, this film has helped me gain a better understanding of what life may be like for those afflicted and those who love them.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

A Review of John Nash’s Movie, a Beautiful Mind. (2019, January 03). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 26, 2023, from
“A Review of John Nash’s Movie, a Beautiful Mind.” GradesFixer, 03 Jan. 2019,
A Review of John Nash’s Movie, a Beautiful Mind. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 Sept. 2023].
A Review of John Nash’s Movie, a Beautiful Mind [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Jan 03 [cited 2023 Sept 26]. Available from:
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