By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Dev Patel stars in a Weinstein-style traditional Oscar contender about Indian boy far from home, and devoted to gaining a seemingly impossible piece of knowledge. Nope, I’m not talking about Lion, which was excellent by the way.
Watching that and A Monster Calls back to back was brutal on my tear ducts.
The Man Who Knew Infinity tells the story of prodigy mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel), an uneducated clerk from India who sends some examples of the theorems he’s been working on as he can to Cambridge’s G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons), who insists he come to England to publish with his assistance. Their dynamic is often at odds, but they complement each other in inspiring ways.
As in Lion, and most of his films, Patel does great work, portraying an incredibly intelligent man whose huge ego if anything may underrepresent the scope of his talents, a man whose way with numbers verged on miraculous and who attributed his facility with them to intuition and a form of communication with the Divine, and a tragic figure who was cut down far younger than our world deserved.
Coughing blood is always a ticking clock in cinema.
Jeremy Irons is also great, a man whose only relationships are with his subject matter and other individuals in that field, an atheist and firm believer in the rigid necessity of proofs and mathematical rigor.
The movie’s ultimately about their relationship, both working and personal, as the men grow to understand the minds they have in each other. It really works.
True romance, of a sort.
Director and screenwriter Matthew Brown’s screenplay also makes an admirable and largely successful attempt at quantifying Ramanujan’s discoveries in terms a layman can understand, and employs some interesting shading as well, like when the British draftees, about to head off to fight Hitler, beat up this Indian boy who will stay behind.
Directing-wise, Brown does a credible Tom Hooper; his film is polished and professional, his composer Coby Brown delivers a classical score with interpolated Indian rhythms that bests what might be an Oscar-nominated similar attempt for Lion, and DP Larry Smith, who, surprise, surprise, has worked with Tom Hooper, but also Stanley Kubrick on Eyes Wide Shut and Nicolas Winding Refn on Only God Forgives, delivers a sturdily well-shot film.
This is a pretty standard setup- misunderstood genius, fish out of water, British colonial bullshit, long-suffering wife, tragic denouement, etc. The rises and falls of the film will feel deeply familiar, but are still effective enough.
The Man Who Knew Infinity is a standardly, but well-executed biopic of a two brilliant minds you may not recognize.
The Man Who Knew Infinity (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for antiquated colonial insults (‘Gunga Din’ certainly counts)
Take a Drink: for superstitions and beliefs
Take a Drink: for foreshadowing and mention of WWI
Take a Drink: for brazen self-confidence
Take a Drink: for any utterance of “proof”
Do a Shot: for simple explanations of complex concepts