The Man Who Knew Infinity

 photo man_who_knew_infinity_ver2_zpsdhy0zicy.jpg photo starrating-3stars.jpgThe biography of Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel) should be the subject of a compelling movie. He was an accomplished Indian mathematician.  In this school of thought, people like Sir Isaac Newton or Professor Stephen Hawking are household names to anyone over the age of 12. Ramanujan, however, still remains somewhat of a mystery. That is until now. His lack of recognition with the general public makes this document of his life even more crucial.

Born in utter poverty, Ramanujan possessed a brilliant mind for analytical theory but had no university training. At one point he decided to send some of his written formulas to a well-known professor at Cambridge University during World War I. At first G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons) thought the correspondence from the unknown sender was a joke, but in time Ramanujan was invited to come study at Cambridge. This occurred in 1914.  He would ultimately become a pioneer in mathematical principles under the guidance of professor G. H. Hardy, his advocate and sponsor.

A fascinating man inspires this production but it’s buried under the formal structure of a staid biopic. Dramatizing the study of theorems is not easy to do and the drama (perhaps wisely) doesn’t even try. Instead, the best parts of The Man Who Knew Infinity deal with the push and pull between Ramanujan and Hardy. They butt heads over differing ideological views. Ramanujan is a devout Hindu while Hardy is openly atheist. Hardy demands proofs. Ramanujan relies on intuition. Their battles of wills is the engaging conflict at the heart of this rather academic and somewhat superficial picture. It’s their love of mathematics that unites them.

Two talents elevate this script. Jeremy Irons and Dev Patel play off one another. To say that this is Dev Patel’s greatest performance since Slumdog Millionaire sounds a bit like damning with faint praise. After all the actor has struggled since that breakthrough in films like The Last Airbender and Chappie. Patel gives the part a sweet determination that honors the man’s accomplishments while giving us an appreciation for all the sacrifices he had to make. The Man Who Knew Infinity isn’t a great movie. Yet let’s consider the fact that it exists to honor the contributions of an unsung hero. That alone makes the biography worthwhile.

06-15-16

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8 Responses to “The Man Who Knew Infinity”

  1. Well, I’m intrigued. This sounds a tier or two below other, modern academia-minded pictures like A Beautiful Mind, The Theory of Everything and Good Will Hunting but that doesn’t mean it can’t be interesting. In fact I think I’ll really enjoy the discovery process here

    • You’re right. It’s not as good as those pictures. However in a summer where we have movies like Warcraft, a TMNT sequel and Alice Through the Looking Glass – it’s a refreshing alternative.

  2. Jeremy Irons and Dev Patel — that’s reason enough for me! I like the history of the story behind it, too.

  3. I was worried about this, the beginning was making me sleepy. All of a sudden it started to capture me. I don’t know much about the subject of mathematics, so I was a little lost. They didn’t explain it either. I still liked it though. Nice little piece of history. 3 stars.

  4. While its subject matter and structure seem dry, the push and pull in the central relationship of this movie sound fascinating. Nice to hear that Dev Patel shines in the film. I agree that he has certainly struggled since Slumdog with some less than stellar roles. Like you, I also appreciate that the movie honors an unsung hero.

    • I recently heard that Matt Brown, writer/director of The Man Who Knew Infinity, has written another biography. It’s called London Town and stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Joe Strummer, the frontman for the influential punk band The Clash.

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