Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons excel in this unusual but true story of the self-taught mathematical genius, Srinavasa Ramanujan and his Cambridge mentor, G. H. Hardy. Written and directed by Matthew Brown, and based on Robert Kanigel's book of the same title, "The Man Who Knew Infinity" is a timeless tale of immense dedication to one's passion and the strong bonds of friendship.
Ramanujan was laboring as a lowly clerk in India, where he and his wife, Janaki (Devika Bhise), lived with his mother in a province far from Calcutta. Already recognized for his mathematical prowess, Ramanujan sends samples of his theorems to three mathematicians at the University of Cambridge. Hardy takes note of his brilliance and invites Ramanujan to England so the two can work together.
In 1914 Ramanujan leaves his young bride and mother and travels three months to get to Cambridge, where he is met with disdain for his ideas, and prejudice for his race. Malnourished and sickly, Ramanujan struggles to prove his theories and gain acceptance. Hardy is supportive to a point, until he realizes the harsh conditions under which Ramanujan has labored.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed "The Man Who Knew Infinity", there are times in the screenplay when I think Brown could have been more compelling in his depiction of Ramanujan's peril. He touches upon some incidents, but rather briefly, without truly delving into the racial issues at hand.
Patel and Irons are both magnetic in their performances, and we do believe a solid relationship is formed between these two very different men. And it is the crux of this friendship which drives "The Man Who Knew Infinity", and makes it a worthwhile film.
David and I have always been drawn to smaller movies whose stories illustrate the infinite possibilities in life, and the bonds that tie people together. "The Man Who Knew Infinity" is a wonderful example of such a film, and illuminates a subject we had not previously known. Who knew that after all these years watching "The Big Bang Theory" that Sheldon's work on string theory was precipitated by Srinavasa Ramanujan?
Opinion: See It Now!
"The Man Who Knew Infinity" is a real gem. This is my kind of movie. Give me this type of involvement every time over non-stop action and endless battle scenes.
How is it possible for a film about an Indian math genius, set in England over a century ago before World War I, to be so entertaining? It's based on the true story of Srinavasa Ramanujan, a 25-year-old accounting clerk from a small village in India who leaves his wife and relatives to meet with revered British mathematician G. H. Hardy at Trinity College, Cambridge. His goal? To prove his theorems and to be published. It matters not that we understand the impossible equations and figures scribbled on a blackboard, or in his textbook. The fact this self-taught young man mastered advanced trigonometry at age 12 is astounding.
Brilliantly written and directed by Matthew Brown, "The Man Who Knew Infinity" is anchored by two electric performances from Jeremy Irons as Hardy, and Dev Patel as the title character. Toby Jones is quietly terrific in a supporting role as Hardy's closest friend, Littlewood, and Jeremy Northam is droll as Bertrand Russell. Young Indian beauty Davika Bhise plays Ramanujan's wife, who is left behind in India as her husband seeks his place in the world.
Hardy was a pragmatic atheist who demanded proof of Ramanujan's theorems, while the young prodigy believed his talent for higher mathematics was infused with the word of God. The dichotomy of their core beliefs makes their bond even more special, more rewarding, than if they had shared similar values.
Patel and Irons forge a wonderful friendship on screen, a relationship that is nurtured each day with a growing mutual respect. As the Indian man endures bullying, homesickness, prejudice, and a debilitating disease, it is Hardy who shows him tough love, and essentially becomes his father figure.
Hardy's emotional tribute to his much younger friend, late in the film, is as fine a piece of work as any in Irons' distinguished career. And although the British-born Patel is familiar to American audiences for other achievements ("Slumdog Millionaire ", "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel", HBO's "The Newsroom"), it is his turn as Ramanujan that defines his acting resume to this point. He is mesmerizing.
There is not a dull moment, not a single false step in this picture. Inevitable comparisons may be made to Russell Crowe's "A Beautiful Mind", but rest assured "The Man Who Knew Infinity" is a powerful story that will stand on its own merit. I highly recommend it to the serious cinephile.
Opinion: Strong See It Now!