THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY – Review by Susan Granger
As the brilliant Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, engaging actor Dev Patel snags his first meaty role since “Slumdog Millionaire” and the “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” comedies. A self-educated clerk from a poor Brahmin family, Ramanujan overcame incredible odds to inform the later work of Stephen Hawking (“The Theory of Everything”) and Alan Turing (“The Imitation Game”). Although writer/director Matt Brown strikes a more conventional key than those previous biopics, he nevertheless weaves a compelling tale of passion and perseverance. Read on…
Ramanujan’s story begins in 1913 in Madras, where his shipping-house employer suggests he send his complex mathematical theorems to Professor G. M. Hardy (Jeremy Irons) in Cambridge. Encouraged by colleague John Littlewood (Toby Jones), Hardy dispatches an invitation to England.
Defying tradition, timid yet intense Ramanujan leaves his overly-possessive mother and devoted young wife, traveling 6,000 miles to Trinity College, where he faces not only academic derision but also racial discrimination as clubby faculty members refer to him disdainfully as “Gunga Din.”
A vegetarian, Ramanujan can’t eat the food served in the dorms, so he cooks soups in the fireplace in his quarters, a task that grows increasingly challenging with wartime rationing. Not surprisingly, his health begins to deteriorate.
Intellectually bonding through discussions of primes and partitions, Ramanujan and Hardy have vastly different approaches to their discipline. A devout Hindu, Ramanujan believes his intuitive knowledge is a gift from God, while pragmatic, atheistic Hardy demands rigorous “proofs” to substantiate the spontaneously scribbled calculations.
Confident in his remarkable ability, Dev Patel conveys Ramanujan’s courteous, yet purposeful determination, in contrast with Jeremy Irons’ socially inept, coldly imperious Hardy. Together, they rise above the bigotry of the Cambridge establishment, launching Ramanujan as the first Indian Fellow at Trinity and a Fellow of the Royal Society.
FYI: 1729 has become the Hardy-Ramanujan number, the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Man Who Knew Infinity” is a spiritual 7, engaging the heart as well as the mind.