MOVIE REVIEW: The Man Who Knew Infinity

The story of the young Indian man who without any formal training suggested solutions to the most enigmatic math problems.  Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar just wanted to get a job, support his family, and share with the world his equations.  Transported from Madras to Trinity College Cambridge he embarks on the journey to prove his work correct and to fight against the pre World War One racism that England held.

As much as this film is about a genius who would have preferred to live in a world of theory and numbers, it is a film about love, religion, belief, hatred, and finding your place in this world.  All these themes and more are explored during the film.  One of the problems that I have with this film though is that with that much exploration going on it means that it’s hard to get much of a resolution about anything in the end.  This is based on a true story.

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The story of Ramanujan and his work with British Cambridge Fellow GH Hardy is one that is not going to set the box office racing, but yet you sit there for the running time and enjoy what you are watching.  You do feel that you are watching that TV network True Movies, or the Hallmark Channel, but just with a far superior cast than their normal fare.  I’m not taking anything away from this film, but it’s a little sweet and there is a lot of avoidance of the real situations of the time.  The film makers want to point out the horrors of war and racism but it’s as though they decided it was far better to quickly get those points out of the way and show Madras and Cambridge through rose tinted glasses.

Dev Patel plays Ramanujan in a way that you believe that this man could have been, understanding and exploring theories with numbers, and trusting in his faith that they are true.  This goes against yet mesmerises Hardy, played by the brilliant Jeremy Irons.  Who has given up believing in God and yet finds something to believe in with Ramanujan.  The rest of the stellar cast includes Jeremy Northam, Stephen Fry, Toby Jones, Devika Bhise, and Kevin McNally.

What the film does exceptionally well is showing the difference between the world that Ramanujan comes from to the stuffy stiff upper lips of England just before the first World War.  Toby Jones stands out with another exceptional normal performance, which is no insult, it takes a huge amount of talent for any actor to be just as you’d imagine that character to be.  Jones is one of the most consistent actors of our time and very much unappreciated too.

The world of the film is beautifully brought to life by costuming and set dressing which brings you more into the world than you think you’re going to venture.  But the movie of the week feel to the whole thing slightly lets it down in the end.  You get emotional as the health of Ramanujan fails and also seeing his family back home in Madras conspire against him boils the blood.  Thankfully the amount of Math work in the film is kept to a minimum and I’m not left there scratching my head trying to figure stuff out.  To this day I’m still trying to work out how anyone made cash in the film Trading Places, and I’m one smart cookie.

Three out of Five for a movie isn’t a bad score, I’d say the majority of films I watch are that score, so I never want someone to take that score as an insult.  I’m also one reviewer watching a movie one time and then have to write about said movie.  This film entertained me.  I think if you look at the film as an emotional equation that is beautifully solved you may find that you are entertained too.

Director: Matt Brown
Writers: Matt Brown, Robert Kanigel
Stars: Jeremy Irons, Dev Patel, Toby Jones

Trailer:

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