Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Man Who Knew Infinity (2016)

Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar (Dev Patel) is brought to Cambridge prior to WWI to, under the guidance of G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons), work on proofs for ground-breaking mathematical theories he had come up with.

Patel and Irons star in a, at best, simplistic, made-for-television-level biopic. What could have been an interesting subject matter is replaced with a facile, poorly written, and shoddily directed trudge. The film is clueless when it comes to both exploring its main character and trying to make itself appear compelling. It's hard to choose where to start with the failings to adequately present its topic.

Perhaps I should begin with the bit the film keeps shoving in our face suggesting that it is meant to be critical to the plot but is so underdeveloped and shallow you wouldn't realise it had the film not been slapping you in the face with it. This would be the stuff built around Ramanujan's relationship with his wife. Apparently, there's meant to be something going on between them but the film presents something that looks like the opposite. They barely interact and, when they do, there's nothing there. Yet the film persists with it, probably thinking it's giving a deep, emotional look at it. And I suppose it succeeds if you twist the meaning of 'deep, emotional' to 'insipid, pathetic, and grating'.

Moving on from that, and you get what makes up the bulk of the film: Ramanujan in Cambridge. At least they make this part feel more relevant, though it still all feels superficial. There is no real exploration into the maths, just a few shots of men gawking at Ramanujan's proposed formulae (this is to make it obvious to you that the guy is a mathematical whizz kid) and his poorly written metaphors trying to explain the beauty of maths. Meanwhile, the film occasionally remembers to force in a scene to do with racism, prejudice, or something else in laughably clunky attempts at trying to show the struggles of the main character.

As for whatever's left that doesn't fall into the last two paragraphs, it's all just so simple-minded, stilted, and unconvincingly made (the background action felt especially lifeless). It is as I said, television movie quality at best and if it had stayed there, it would have been easier to overlook many of its shortcomings. But being in cinemas just highlights just how poorly done and empty the whole thing is.

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