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Review “A Beautiful Mind’ By Ron Howard

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     The Ron Howard- directed film, A Beautiful Mind, starring Russell Crowe, is a film that contains many aspects of interpersonal communication between its characters. Because the main character, John Nash, suffers from Schizophrenia and displays behavior indicative to the disorder, other characters are forced to modify their communication skills when interacting with him. This interaction makes the communication facets quite obvious. Resolving conflict, effective listening, non-verbal communication, effective conversation skills, conflict management and communicating in the workplace are all wonderfully displayed.

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A Beautiful Mind
Throughout the film A Beautiful Mind, characters display communication aspects in very powerful ways. The main character, John Nash, suffers from Schizophrenia, which requires each supporting character to modify their interpersonal communication skills in order to communicate with him.

     Resolving conflict is quite evident in the film. It is obvious that Nash’s story, as depicted in A Beautiful Mind, is a ongoing conflict, even after Nash is diagnosed with the disorder and undergoes treatment. Interpersonal communication, throughout the film, takes on a heightened role and many facets are displayed.

     It is obvious that other characters misunderstand John Nash, from the beginning of the film. When Nash arrives at Princeton, he doesn’t immediately communicate with his peers. In fact, it is clear that most of them are cautious about communication with him at all. However, they do use several non-verbal methods to communicate with him and each other when Nash is present (Grazer). Nash, as well as other characters, found himself in awkward situations as he leads on quite obviously, that he’s aware he is different from each of his peers. Embarrassment is a strong emotion when supporting characters communicate with him.

     Ineffective interpersonal communications can be embarrassing for everyone involved. If two or more people, while communicating, do not understand each other, the situation can often lead to significant strain on human relationships (Verderber & Verderber). As seen in the film, Nash’s relationships with this peers, his professor, played by Judd Hirsch, and his wife are quite strained from the start, as most of the communicating that takes place between them is chalked full of misunderstanding, which creates conflict after conflict. Verderber & Verderber also note that interpersonal communication is vital for human beings, as it fills a psychological and social need. People need to have two-way symbiotic conversations with others in order to feel connected socially. The authors also note that effective interpersonal communication defines who each person is as an individual. When we communicate with others, we are able to judge what each other’s interests are, what we are good at, and how others perceive us by the way we conduct ourselves (5). In John Nash’s case, characters are forever trying to “figure him out” in terms of their attempts to have solid two-way conversations with him.  It eventually becomes obvious that three of the supporting characters are simply figments of Nash’s mental disorder. It is them quite clear that Nash does, in fact, display skills to effectively communicate. However, he, during the majority of the film, only displays such skills when he’s communicating with the characters that are inside his head. As Nash toggles back and forth between the Schizophrenic realm and reality, the obvious outcome is conflict, which virtually all characters are forced to resolve.

     Reacting to John Nash’s disorder, which goes unknown to everyone until the thirteenth and fourteenth scene of the film, each character displays conflict resolution skills in dealing with him. Until John meets Dr. Rosen, and is formally diagnosed with Schizophrenia, supporting characters resolve conflicts with him by allowing Nash, himself, to keep them at bay at his will. However, until Nash decides to withdraw from certain circumstances and conversations, many of the characters find themselves using keen listening skills in order to extrapolate meaning to what Nash were saying. For example, director, Ron Howard shot several scenes in a local pub where Princeton students would frequent and enjoy conversation. Nash is the focal point of each scene shot in the bar. His explanation about the odds of each man’s chances of engaging in sexual relations with a group of women has each supporting character hanging on his every word as he uses mathematic and scientific theories to bring forth the probability that each man finds a woman among a group of females present across the room. Thus, each character actually avoids conflict by effectively listening to Nash instead of completely disregarding what he has to say. This allows each supporting character to fill their social and psychological needs of human interaction with their fellow human being—John Nash.

     When obvious conflicts arise in the film, such as Nash’s work performance, marital issues, and interpersonal communicative chaos, many aspects of constructive resolution rises to the surface of the film’s theme. Research shows that resolving conflict involves recognizing that long-term relationships are much more important than the short-term conflict at hand. It is therefore, important for each disputant to realize that each other’s well being and the well being of the relationship, be persevered. Preserving these relationships involves learning cooperative necessary for proper conflict resolution (Johnson, Johnson & Holubec). This is evident in several scenes throughout the film. In a powerful scene, Nash’s wife meets a former colleague and friend of Nash’s on the campus of Princeton. During their conversation, she explains how she, in her mind, reminds herself that the man she loves still resides inside of Nash, which is her way of resolving conflict.

     In Nash’s workplace, which is two-fold in terms of reality, conflict abounds.  When it is discovered that Nash has been working on fictionally breaking codes to thwart Russian military attack and not performing is duties at MIT, his disorder is discovered. Upon diagnosis of Nash’s Schizophrenia, those in his professional life join forces with this wife and doctor and go to work to preserve the importance of their long-term relationship with him. He quietly stays home, relapses, and then returns to the academic life, after it’s safe for everyone involved. His marriage, friendships and his professional relationships were not destroyed due to proper conflict management

     Proper conflict resolution also involves proper negotiation skills. People must learn to negotiate, mediate and accept things and ideas different from their own. Agreements are formalized, stands are taken and behaviors are regulated (Johnson & Johnson). This is evident in the film. For example, when Nash decides to stop taking his anti-psychotic medication, a sit-down with this wife and doctor is conducted. During this sit-down, all ideas about his treatment are discussed. Nash wants to forego traditional medical treatment. His doctor wants to increase medical involvement. His wife sits confused, however, finally decides to side with the man she loves, who wins in the negotiation with his doctor. The scene displayed textbook negotiation in terms of resolving conflict. Nash, especially, listened to what his doctor had to say, considered it and presented his case. Mrs. Nash, with commitment papers in hand, also makes an informed decision after listening to the arguments on both side of the issue.

      A Beautiful Mind also contains several powerful examples of non-verbal communication. Ron Howard did a wonderful job capturing the facial expressions of Nash and the characters that supported in him in the film. Sorrow, confusion, anger, bewilderment, empathy, joy and fear were common on the faces of each character. It is said that the face is the one of the most powerful tools in communication without words. When person is afraid, their face acts as indicative identifier of the emotion (Noverbal.ucsc.edu). A Beautiful Mind is rich in emotion identifiers. Nash is often scared of the people in his mind and of reality. His wife is fearful of his condition. Her face also reveals that she loves him very strongly. His peers also show several signs of fear, confusion, attentiveness, love, and compassion for the man they admire. Each character is able to see past Nash’s disorder into the heart of the man that is their friend. A powerful scene that is largely non verbal, shows Nash seated at the coveted table on the campus of Princeton where he’s given the ink pens of his colleagues, which symbolizes renowned academic achievement. His acceptance of the Nobel Prize also shows a strong presence of love, gratitude and compassion between Nash and his wife, who sits in the crowd and attentively listens to him accept the award.

     According to Nonverbal.ucsc.edu, the voice is a powerful way in which to communicate non-verbally. The Web site’s research indicates that the human voice contains a vocal paralanguage, which joins with the actual words we say to reflect what we are feeling as we speak. This paralanguage refers to the tone in which we utter words. Throughout the film, emotions were evident—some strong, some subtle. Virtually everyone that dealt with John Nash spoke the way he did. Very rarely does any character use angry tones, even when anger, fear, and utter disgust is evident. The voice was used very cleverly throughout the film. Subtleties of vocal pitch coupled with each word as they were pieced together to form sentences are never void of the emotion at hand. One might feel that the film should have included high-energy dialogue including screaming, raucous and intense conflict and strife. However, it was not necessary. The way each character emits his or her voice foregoes the need to include melodramatic tones to get their points across. This is due to powerful non-verbal communicative skills on the parts of each character.

     Another powerful aspect of the non-verbal communication in the film is the depiction of the human body. Each character, including Nash, expresses their stand as academic and professional member of society. The way the humans are treated by each other is largely due to how our bodies look visually. Each aspect of the human body often leads many to form stereotypes. For example, heavy tattooing may depict a rebellious front. A person carrying an excessive amount of body weight may be perceived as a depressed or humiliated individual. When we look at other people, because of the way they appear, it is natural to begin seeing a perceived self-image of them that may or may not be accurate (Nonverbal.ucus.edu).  Each character in the film carries themselves with identifying swaggers. The academic dress among the students and professors was evident. Their garb also identified each government official—real and unreal. It is quite easy for a viewer, in the beginning of the film; to perceive Nash’s peers as pompous Ivy League types because of their tweed jackets, neatly trimmed hair and strong academic appearance. However, it becomes evident that each character emits emotions that are often non-indicative to how a viewer may perceive them to be. With the exception “Charles” and Ed Harris as “Parcher,” each supporting character is simply a product of their visual environment. Self-righteousness is nowhere to be found in the film. One may think, at first glance that one of Nash’s peers, namely Hansen, would emerge as his nemesis. Although Hansen and Nash do mildly clash, the rivalry is not depicted as a major struggle between the characters. Hansen, although sporting a certain pompous flare, does not communicate in such a way. His empathy, love and concern override any status a viewer may perceive at the beginning of the film. Nash’s appearance is somewhere between pompous and disheveled.

     Extras in the film are also wonderfully cast. As Nash becomes progressively worse, onlookers obviously begin to view him with confusion and utter bewilderment. That confusion and bewilderment eventually evolves into disdain and hatred, as Nash is mocked as he begins to limp and awkwardly move around the Princeton campus. However, again, not only those around him, but Nash himself embrace him—and his Schizophrenia. By the middle of the film, Nash begins to appear as a champion. He challenges his disorder the same way he challenges the math problems he strives to diligently to solve.

     The film A Beautiful Mind, in terms of interpersonal communication, embodies the definition of the term. Verdberder defines interpersonal communication as: the process through which people create and manage their relationships exercising mutual responsibility in creating meaning (4).

     In the film, each supporting character was forever managing their relationship with John Nash, in order to preserve it. All a mutual responsibility and a powerful emotional wanton to do so. John Nash, himself, also has to deal with the relationship he had with the characters in his mind. To champion himself in the real world, the characters that proved to be products of his mental disorder needed to be put in to their proper place. Just as his personal and professional relationships were weighed in terms of long-term importance, so are the relationships he had with Charles, Parcher and the little girl. In order to resolve the conflicts he has with them in his mind, he found it necessary to leave them behind and come to terms with the fact they are simply not real. Because his relationships outside of the Schizophrenia are more important to him in terms of long-term positively, he realizes that conflict of the disorder, itself, must be dealt with on the short term, so he look to the future with the people in his life that matter the most to him.

     The inner struggle of John Nash mirrors the struggles that he has with those around him. All conflicts are the result of the mental disorder. Just as those in his life struggled to accept and understand his condition, Nash does the same to accept and understand himself. When he finally comes to terms with what is reality and what is not, is he able to preserve a productive future that includes strong interpersonal relationships. However, through his personal struggle, none of the supporting characters turn him away. As he struggles, so do they. As he progresses, they progress along with him.

     Conflict resolution, effective listening, non-verbal communication, effective conversation and work place conflict management are all abound in the film, A Beautiful Mind.


Grazer, B. (Producer), & Howard, R. (Director). (2002). A Beautiful Mind [DVD].
Universal Pictures / Dreamworks Pictures / Imagine Entertainment.

Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (1995a). Teaching students to be peacemakers (3rd ed.).
Edina, MN: Interaction Book Company.
Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., & Holubec, E. J. (1993). Cooperation in the classroom (6th ed.).
Edina, MN: Interaction Book Company.
Noverbal.ucsc.edu. (n.d.). Exploring Non-Verbal Communication.
http:// nonverbal.ucsc.edu.
Verderber, R., & Verderber, K. (2006). Inter-Act: Interpersonal Communication Concepts,
Skills and Concepts (11th ed). New York: Oxford University Press.


Cite this Review “A Beautiful Mind’ By Ron Howard

Review “A Beautiful Mind’ By Ron Howard. (2016, Oct 24). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/a-beautiful-mind-2/

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