If you’re looking to find something special in The Man Who Knew Infinity, a biopic of mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, you won’t find much beyond its fantastic cast. Dev Patel, an actor who has only grown in stature over his career, puts in some fine work as Ramanujan, an unlikely mathematical genius who travels from India to London in the hopes of having his work published.
Having earnt admittance to Cambridge University, he begins his work with Professor G. H. Hardy who is played by the brilliant and show-stealing Jeremy Irons. The pair’s relationship is a complex one as Hardy strives to have Ramanujan’s work published, but only once his theories have been metacilouslly proven. Alone, separated from his wife, and facing racism whilst living in a country on the brink of war, it goes without saying that Ramanujan, on the other hand, is eager to have his groundbreaking work put out into the world before it dies with him.
What that groundbreaking work is, I’m still not quite sure. Admittedly, I should have payed more attention in maths during school, but negotiating the mathematical complexities for a wide audience is the biggest problem that the film faces. It takes the time to explain the work that’s being done in a very ‘talky’ kind of way, but never goes as far to creatively explain its importance or relevance. In the end, it does feel like the central aspect to the film will leave most in the dark.
In its defence, there is a lot more going on within the film than the maths. Writer and director, Matthew Brown, juggles many different plot threads such as the relationships between that of Hardy and Ramanujan, as well as the one between Ramanujan and his wife, Janaki. The threat of an oncoming war, racism and even God are all dealt with at some point but are never elaborated on as much as I would have liked, feeling like they’re all there for decoration more than anything else.
Whilst Brown has made a perfectly passable biopic, one that has an incredible if underused cast – I wish I could have seen a lot more of Toby Jones and Stephen Fry – it is far too conventional for its own good. Considering Ramanujan claims that it is his God who places these equations and formulas on his tongue as he sleeps, it feels like an opportunity has been wasted to have told his story with some kind of visual vigour or creative style.
The Man Who Knew Infinity is about as straight-faced as they come and decidedly ‘paint-by-numbers’. That’s not to say that there isn’t anything to like, and the cast alone are worth the price of a ticket. However, whilst the film’s subject may be remarkable, the film itself is far from it.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com