It's not a bad film. The elegant Paltrow acts with guarded intensity, so unrelentingly triste that her fleeting moments of happiness are like hot sunlight pouring through a crack in the storm clouds.
The older sister who arrives for the funeral and to settle Dad's affairs is played with utterly convincing annoyingness by Hope Davis (who, you will of course recall, played the French ticketing agent in "Home Alone")
The father's ex-student and Catherine's budding love interest, Hal, is played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who is just, well, annoying. Maybe if he showered and shaved... Twice...
Hopkins. Well, he just IS. Once you're Hannibal, you pretty much can never come back.
The title refers a mathematical proof that is discovered in a journal among Dad's belongings. It's so brilliant that the word "brilliant" is pathetically inadequate. It has to do with a really large prime number, I think, but for someone like me, they might as well be discussing various degrees of karmic enlightenment in tantric Buddhism.
Anyway, it's a really, really, really brainy mathematical proof. Ground-breaking.
Buoyed up by the false sense of intimacy and trust brought about by having sex with Hal during the post-funeral house party, Catherine reveals that she is the real author of the proof.
Now, here's where the second meaning of the title comes in, and what I found most interesting about this movie. Because there's no way to prove that Catherine is telling the truth. Her and her father's handwriting are virtually identical. And, Hal concludes, how could someone--a woman, no less--who dropped out of grad school (to take care of her father, but still) possibly possess the kind of mind necessary to achieve this supernova-level mathematical breakthrough?
Crushed by Hal's doubt, Catherine goes into an even darker spiral. She shuts down emotionally for a week.
During which time, Hal takes the journal to various math scholars to verify its legitimacy. And, in fact, it seems 100% on the up and up. Hal becomes convinced not only of the proof's validity, but also of Catherine's authorship (it apparently uses newer math techniques that Catherine's father wouldn't have mastered--what, is there a different way of writing "x" that I don't know about?)
Hal, convinced and excited, rushes back to find Catherine getting ready to move out of town with her sister. He tells her that he believes her now. She is not impressed. Here's the great scene:
CATHERINE: You think you figured something out? You run over here all pleased with yourself because you changed your mind? Now you're certain? You don't know anything! The book, the math, the dates, the writing...all that stuff, you just decided with your buddies. It's just evidence. It doesn't prove anything.Do you see that? Isn't that the age old problem of faith? The Enemy (or a persistent atheist, for that matter) could use similar words to any believer or convert:
HAL: Okay, what would?
CATHERINE: Nothing. (Pause) You should've trusted me.
HAL: I know.
You think you figured something out? Here you are, all pleased with yourself because you changed your mind? Now you're certain? You don't know anything! The sacred book, the beauty of creation and its laws, the existence of the Church, the experience of God's love, the example of the saints, the fact of countless lives turned around...all that stuff, you just decided with your Christian buddies. It's just evidence. It doesn't prove anything.What would prove the existence of God? What would prove the reliability of Scripture? The historicity of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus? The access we have to the Father through the Spirit of Christ even now? The forgiveness of sin? The validity of prayer?
Nothing. There is no proof of any of these things.
There's heaps of evidence. Reason is a friend to Christian belief. There is abundant evidence--but you can always find a way to rule evidence inadmissable. Hearsay! Subjective experience! Empirically unverifiable! Delusion! Coincidence! Fabrication! Wishful thinking!
But God says: You should trust me.
Finally, even after you have weighed all the evidence, faith still requires trust.
We trust in the self-revelation of God, because we accept that God is reliable. Because it is not in God's character to deceive.
We trust that the authors of scripture weren't just making it all up out of thin air.
We trust that the apostles tell it like it was, from slightly divergent standpoints, and were willing to be killed rather than deny what they knew to be true.
We trust that their witness was faithfully compiled and written down. (The evidence is VERY friendly to us at this point.)
And we trust that the Church for 2,000 years has more or less ably preserved this witness to the reality of the Living Christ in our midst, the wellspring of our healing, the source of our joy.