Film Reviews

Writer/director Matt Brown knows a great story when he finds one, and Srinavasa Ramanujan's certainly qualifies. As presented in The Man Who Knew Infinity, the story begins at Trinity College, Cambridge, England as G.H. Hardy, a member of the Royal Academy for his brilliant work in mathematics, remembers his most moving experiences with a formally uneducated shipping clerk from Madras, India. 

As the story proper begins in Madras, India, in voiceover narration Hardy describes his relationship with Ramanujan as "the one romantic incident in my life." But Ramanujan's life in Madras poses sufficient hurdles to his intellectual progress, for even after Hardy invites him to Trinity College, Brahmin culture dictates against Ramanujan's travel. His lack of formal degrees and of thorough mathematical proofs causes further difficulties with his acceptance as his work, nevertheless, continues to astonish the best mathematical minds.

Dramatically profiling a brilliant, theoretical mathematician challenges the best directors, and Brown solves the problem by focusing on the Cambridge community--those supporting and rejecting Ramanujan's ideas. The collaboration between G.H. Hardy and John Littlewood keeps the debates clear, the beginning of WWI adds additional tension, and Bertrand Russell introduces strong ethical commentary.  

The performances by a superb cast provide the solid substance needed to give mathematics the gleam it deserves. As Ramanujan, Dev Patel has a three-dimensional role he can sink his teeth into. Jeremy Irons as G.H. Hardy delivers the gravitas and humanity he always brings. And Stephen Fry, Toby Jones, Jeremy Northam and Devika Bhise are excellent in supporting roles.  

Cinematographer Larry Smith embellishes the India sequences with vivid colors and contrasts this palette with the more somber Cambridge scenes dominated by browns and greys, reflecting Ramanujan's physical isolation, emotional struggles, and tragic ending. The Man Who Knew Infinity brings to life a genius long overdue for recognition. At Landmark's Plaza Frontenac and Tivoli cinemas.

Related Articles