The Man Who Knew Infinity (2016) Film Review from the 15th Annual Tribeca Film Festival, a movie directed by Matthew Brown, starring Dev Patel, Jeremy Irons, Toby Jones, Stephen Fry, Jeremy Northam, Kevin McNally, Enzo Clienti, and Devika Bhise.
The Man Who Knew Infinity is among those films like The Theory of Everything and A Beautiful Mind where the biggest challenge is to make a story about a famous mathematic genius into a compelling drama. The film is well crafted to show us the groundbreaking work of Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel) and also dramatizes the story to give us more of a human piece.
We are introduced to Srinivasa Ramanujan, a young man living in the slums of India who has a gift for numbers. He proves to be quite the star among his peers, especially by Dir Francis Spring (Stephen Fry). Spring encourages him to send letters of his work to Cambridge mathematician G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons). Hardy becomes so impressed by Ramanujan’s letters that he invites him to work for him and get his proofs published and even a fellowship at Cambridge University. He leaves his mother and devoted wife Janaki (Devika Bhise) behind for an opportunity of a lifetime. However, his arrival doesn’t please everyone on the board because of his humble background and having no education on his part. What transpires is a growing friendship between Ramanujan and Hardy as they both help each other in learning Ramanujan’s work and on life.
Jeremy Irons is well casted as the strict yet caring G.H. Hardy, showing how his fast-forward thinking approach makes him the man that he is at the prestigious university. Even Dev Patel excels at playing Ramanujan with passion as we get to learn how this young man uses his natural gift of making formulas from his head into reality. Their dynamic on screen worked so well to match with the two iconic men’s contrasting personalities. While Hardy was an atheist and mostly goes by facts and proofs, Ramanujan goes by faith and relied on his intuition. Both actors manage to put in enough effort to pull off some amazing performances.
Irons also showed some great chemistry with Toby Jones, who plays his kind-hearted colleague John Edensor Littlewood. They both play each other off so well, as we see Littlewood is a bit more open-minded about Ramanujan’s process in his work than Hardy. Other cast members like Kevin McNally and Jeremy Northam bring in more variety to the story as Cambridge mathematicians as Major MacMahon and Bertrand Russell.
The film manages to capture many aspects from Ramanujan’s journey from a man from a small village struggling to get accepted for his gifts. We see how he gets obsessed with numbers but tries to connect with his wife. After moving to England, Ramanujan feels isolated from his peers and gets treated as an outsider. Seeing that on film makes us relate to his cause and Dev Patel does a fantastic job showing his subtle side while adding some funny moments as he experiences culture shock in a foreign land.
Filmed on location at Trinity College Cambridge, the film looks beautiful as we see the outside yard at the school and the many corridors to crowd up the building. Thanks to the cinematography of Larry Smith, we get to see some shots of both India and England as we see differences in their weather patterns. The film often does avoid keeping us in the loop about Ramanujan’s breakthroughs as it builds up into an emotional climax when Ramanujan finds approval at the college’s sanctified walls. Ramanujan also ends up not living a long life, but like famous composers and painters, his work continues to live on.
The film overall made the story really relatable as math became a major part of it in a way that was completely understandable. We are reminded how much Ramanujan’s work and legacy has still remained so groundbreaking to this day. The film tells a good tale that really stands out on it’s own thanks to the performances of Jeremy Irons and Dev Patel.
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