<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Matt Brown. Starring Dev Patel, Jeremy Irons, Toby Jones, Kevin McNally, Stephen Fry, Jeremy Northam, Arundhati Nag, Devika Bhise, Anthony Calf, Raghuvir Joshi
Running Time: 1 hour 48 minutes
While the whole ‘British-ness’ of it lends a regal and humorous quality to the film, which has some great performances, The Man Who Knew Infinity has very little uniqueness and fails to show us the true impact of this mathematical genius apart from some end credit info.
All biopics follow a similar path to tell the story of great men and women who have changed the world and our lives. And Hollywood knows how to do this. Hell, even the inventor of a self-cleaning mop (Joy) got a relatively entertaining film. But that was a mop. In The Man Who Knew Infinity we have a much more complex issues being invented here: the intricate and complex mathematical formulae that shaped the thinking of the future.
Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel) was a young man from Madras, India who through divine inspiration could quickly churn out the answers to great mathematical conundrums and even devised an ingenious way of solving ‘partitions’ that ultimately made him famous. But his path to glory was paved with prejudice, family turmoil and his own personal angst. He was given a chance to go to Cambridge – much to the dismay of his overbearing mother (Arundhati Nag) – and work with the great mathematicians GH Hardy (Jeremy Irons) and John Littlewood (Toby Jones).
I found the first half of the film a tad dull. Never been much for maths in school and didn’t for the life of me understand the significance of most of the ‘wow’ moments when they discovered some strange looking formula that was akin to a ‘painting without colour’! And that’s the trouble with subject matter like this; how do you make it more accessible to people who now use their mobile phones to calculate tips at a restaurant?
The interplay between Hardy and Ramanujan is fascinating and Jeremy Irons manages a great performance even playing against Dev Patel who seems to act exactly the same way in all his films. The dialogue is sharp and witty with some nice Brit jokes to keep the audience chuckling. What I found interesting, and which some others may find distracting, is the story of his mother and wife back home who both pine for him in different ways and instead of taking care of each other are at loggerheads about who loves him more.
And that whole setting with the backdrop of the war never comes through either. A makeshift hospital on the lawns of Trinity looks like an afterthought, failing to get across the gravity of the situation of the times. I couldn’t exult in Ramanujan’s victories, as I didn’t know what the significance meant. Though of course they were indeed significant.
The Man Who Knew Infinity will appeal to some but be a tad boring to others.