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Sunday, 23rd February 2020

The Man Who Knew Infinity – Film Review

Chavon Owens

Chavon Owens

Chavon is a writer/blogger with a background in education. She loves words and art in all forms. She enjoys watching documentaries while eating vegan ice cream. Chavon is also a self proclaimed environmental activist and nutrition enthusiast.
Chavon Owens

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The film, The Man Who Knew Infinity, is a mathematical experience of the cinematic kind. The first to be written (screenplay), directed and produced by Matt Brown, it mingles math with something much more relatable; real life. Giving viewers a glimpse into the struggles and discoveries of math genius Srinivasa Ramanujan, it’s based on author Robert Kanigel’s 1991 biography of the same title.


The movie stars Dev Patel, known in part for his breakthrough performance in Slumdog Millionaire, as Ramanujan and Jeremy Irons, known for his many amazing roles including Alfred in the recent Batman vs. Superman, as Cambridge Professor G.H. Hardy. In this drama, Patel’s character faces themes regarding poverty, discrimination, war and mortality. The Man Who Knew Infinity is the kind of film that calls on you to face the harshness of reality and question your own purpose.

The film starts off with a young Ramanujan looking for work in Madras, India. Dingy, warm colors such as oranges and browns filter the scene to assist with the feeling of poverty and heated climate. Brown does an excellent job of using color and scenery to create contrast between India and England. Once Ramanujan makes his way to the Cambridge campus, the colors change to cool blues, greens and greys. These colors turn somber and heavier once World War I starts in 1914. I thought the use of color was carried out very well, it moved the story along and helped mimic the mood changes we all experience during life stages. 


There are several themes that reoccur throughout the film. Ramanujan must prove himself worthy in India when he is considered poor and “ill-educated.” He must also prove himself in England where he is considered a foreigner with different customs than those of his academic hosts. The dramatic scenes involving issues of discrimination and the struggle to provide for his wife really shined a light on the conflicts he had to face. Being a genius didn’t exempt him from these experiences. Ramanujan is also faced with the delicate topic of mortality. He witnesses death during war and also feels pressed against time to fulfill his purpose and share his work.

Irons brings forth the stiff and distant nature of G.H. Hardy. Upon Ramanujan’s arrival, he is very cold and has little to say or offer his guest. At first the viewer isn’t sure if they are going to like this character, but soon Hardy’s determination and sternness makes sense. I was pleased at the way the character progressed. It seemed Hardy learned more than just math from Ramanujan. Eventually, a heartfelt bond is created between the two.THE-MAN-WHO-KNEW-INFINITY2

At times the viewer is forced to face uncomfortable topics. However, even though set over a decade in the past, these topics are very relevant even today. When Ramanujan is looking for work in India, at one point he is forced to desperately declare “I have recommendations. What I need is a job.” I know I have been in the position before to be offered a letter of recommendation, but not a paying job and so have many of my friends. This is one of many examples of how the film pulls on the invisible strings that are attached to our guts. These strings tug on us to question morals and to also wonder “am I really fulfilling my own purpose?” In my opinion, this is what makes The Man Who Knew Infinity a true work of art, and as Hardy says in the movie “Like all art it reflects truth.” A must-see for drama enthusiasts and math buffs alike. Patel does a wonderful job at portraying the many hardships Ramanujan must face. Only 26, he truly excels in dramatic cinema and sincerely does this film great justice. 

THE-MAN-WHO-KNEW-INFINITY3Starring: Dev Patel, Jeremy Irons, Malcolm Sinclair, Raghuvir Joshi, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Stephen Fry, Arundathi Nag, Devika Bhise

Directed by: Matt Brown (as Matthew Brown)

Written by: Matt Brown

MPAA rating: PG-13

Running time: 108 mins

Rating: 5/5