So I just finished this movie and, I have to say, I was blown away by its simplicity. I’m pretty sure this movie had about 5 shooting locations, and this simplicity alone was touching and dramatic. This film about the entity that is Charles Darwin and the theory that changed the world through conflict, was one of anguish, inner turmoil, and alienation. This movie may have been pure speculation about the life of Darwin and his quest to write “Origin of the Species,” but it is rare to encounter a film that makes you believe that the actor who is Darwin must have known Darwin. Must have been Darwin.
I had heard about this movie a year or so ago and have always had an affinity for Paul Bettany. All of his
work is top shelf stuff. And Creation is no exception. Another amazing piece from across the sea, and it kept me entranced in Bettany and those around Darwin. The 1850’s was a time of religious dominance and this film portrayed that quite clearly. It is this conflict between science and religion (still ongoing) that frames the film. It is not all encompassing of the purpose, but gives substance to the interactions between work, family, and the past.
There are two amazing relationships that also frame this movie. The first is between Darwin and his daughter Annie (Martha West). The conflict between the live Annie and the memory of her past self haunts Darwin throughout the film. Annie loves her father and his dedication and fervor for life. And at the same time, she loves her mother and the devotion she shows to her religion. As Bettany says ever so touchingly, “I thought we were making the perfect child.” But it is this child that causes the loss of faith as well as the devotion to his soon to be world changing book. And, with every painful interaction, Darwin is forced to face the demons of his past and the issue that this creates with his family, most importantly his wife. And therein lies the second best relationship portrayed in the film. Between Darwin and Emma (Jennifer Connelly), there is an ocean. Emma’s religion and Darwin’s science seem to be the issue at the heart of the problem, but in a surprising and touching twist, it is the daughter that causes the rift. And the resolution is worth the watch in itself. It is rare in films that a leading man and lady would be married in real life. This is one of them. And I give that credit to whoever cast a married couple in a role like this. It’s absolutely amazing to watch two people with chemistry that is based in life to interact on film. Every scene with their interaction is so fluid and natural that I was blown away by how wonderful it must be to be those two in love. Quite literally the best part of the film.
And there are a few notable mentions to make about minor acting parts. Freya Parks does a great job as Etta, the oldest of Darwin’s children, fighting for the attention of her father who is perpetually focused on the memory of his dead daughter. Her scenes are touching and tragic in the way that she tries and seems to flounder without any affection from her father. The last scene, something to see. Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s current Sherlock) gave a great minor performance as Mr. Hooker, one of Darwin’s confidantes and emotional support in his hour of need when it comes to writing his book. And Martha West, bless her heart, gave it her all as Annie, the focus of Darwin’s obsession and past regrets. Having to play a protagonist and antagonist simultaneously must be quite hard for a child, and she pulls it off with aplomb.
You may have noticed the title of this blog. And I would have to say this plot reminds me of A Beautiful Mind, the great Ron Howard award winning story of another theorist who could see figments of his imagination, John Nash. All of the dramatic elements are there and its done with the same grace. I gotta give credit to Jon Amiel, a director who I’ve not seen do anything like this before, directing with all he has. Throw in some scenes straight out of The Fall with their exotic nature, and you have a recipe for a great movie. 9.5 out of 10.