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Review: The Man Who Knew Infinity

Show, don’t tell. While this is likely a prequesite for a solving a proof, it certainly should have been one for the painfully sincere The Man Who Knew Infinity, written and directed by Matthew Brown.

This is the type of movie that comes out almost every single year at this time, the kind of safe programming that goes down easy during film festivals, and comes out in May as counterprogramming for loud summer movies that will play in arty theatres that skew older.

The difference between a film like The Man Who Knew Infinity and a less crowding pleasing film is that despite the guidance of real-life mathematicians is that the film does not stop the explain the importance of Srinivasa Ramanujan’s theories of mathematics.

The film instead plays as a slightly leaser version of A Beautiful Mind or The Theory of Everything and once again focuses upon a mathematician in trouble, here playe by Dev Patel. The actor feels like he’s embodying  a twentieth-century version of his Neal Sampat character from The Newsroom beginning with an extended sequence set in British India, (along with his thankfully aged-up wife). Patel himself seems far too old for this twenty-year-old self-taught math prodigy. This age disparity continues when Ramanujan travels to Cambridge, playing itself. Naturally, the campus looks lovely, but Toby Jones and Jeremy Northam aren’t given very much to do as Professors of Mathematics John Edensor Littlewood and Bertrand Russell (and Stephen Fry hardly registers earlier on). Instead, the experince is a showcase for Jeremy Irons to do what he does best as G.H. Hardy. Though Irons is a good thirty years older than Hardy was at the time, all is forgiven once the audience hears his distinctive voice.

The film is successful in that there is no real villain, aside from Ramanujan’s tuberculosis. The story is told straight and plaintively, but if its aim to tell an accurate and engaging tale, something doesn’t add up.

[star v=25]