The Man Who Knew Infinity: Film Review

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I had never even heard of The Man Who Knew Infinity until a few weeks before release – it has slipped under the radar, which is a shame because it is a touching boy genius story and one of Dev Patel’s best performances.

Patel plays the real-life Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, who has no training in the field but compiles many theories and numbers (some original) into his notebooks in Madras. He sends his work to a variety of mathematicians in his area and captures the attention of Cambridge University professor G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons). Hardy invites him to Cambridge during World War I to work on his theories and their partnership subsequently makes a groundbreaking contribution to the world of maths.

I love it when films shed light on an extraordinary person you would never know about otherwise – Ramanujan has an innate talent for maths – he was not taught, and he says the numbers just come to him – and a lot of his theories were proved to be correct following his death. However, I just do not understand infinite series, number theory, partitions etc and the filmmakers only attempted to explain partitions so I could not fully appreciate what a difference he made. So I like this film more for the cultural shock qualities, the blossoming friendship between the two leads and the underdog story.

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Most of the Cambridge professors did not want him studying there because he is Indian, has no training and is basically not a rich, white man, that’s except for Hardy and his buddy John Littlewood (Toby Jones). Ramanujan has to contend with a lot – leaving his wife and mother in India, the British food and attitude and the Professor’s need for proofs, to show his work is correct, before publishing the theories. He already knows his work is right, so he doesn’t get the need for proofs.

Patel shows his vulnerability very well and gave a moving performance. Irons was also powerful but in a far more understated way – he is rather cold and unloving and cares only about maths, but he eventually learns to care for Ramanujan when nobody else will.

This is a very sentimental boy genius effort but I must admit the filmmakers’ efforts to tug on the heartstrings worked – I properly cried at this. I love watching films about people facing adversity but still coming out triumphant, or people proving pompous assholes wrong. It is definitely not Good Will Hunting standards but it is interesting and moving – even if I had no idea about the maths.

In cinemas Friday 8th April

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