The Man Who Knew Infinity ★★★

The life story of the great mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan has been kneaded into a warm confection studded with nuts of melodrama.

It is warm and toothsome, if you like a Hollywood-style biopic. Even though Ramanujan's obstacles of race and caste are given a reasonable amount of time in this story, those grim social barriers are raised to the height of melodrama in the same way his brilliant mathematic discoveries, his relationships with colleagues and family are. The whole is a glowing panegyric, back-lit like a stained glass window. Taken as such, it is quite enjoyable.

The structure of the script shows that the filmmaker is bobbing and weaving around concerns that a non-white protagonist might not draw the audience and that a story about math will actually drive ticket buyers away.

Problem 1: Cast a famous English actor who doesn't cost too much but has world-wide recognition. Hence, Jeremy Irons. I like a good dose of Irons but it can only be for the publicity value that he was cast. The real H.G. Hardy was only 10 years older than Ramanujan, so that put him in his 30's.

Irons does a good job as an elderly academician. But, Hardy was a young man in his fiery prime, as was Ramanujan. Picture Michael Fassbinder or James McAvoy opposite Dev Patel. Sparks would fly! But those actors would be too expensive for this budget. So the conflict and the connection between the men is somewhat de-fanged and the turbulence smoothed out.

Problem 2: Make half the movie about his mother hiding his letters to his wife and hers to him. That old trope. The movie makers try to create a balanced picture of Ramanujan's wife and mother's life but it dilutes the energy of the story because this movie not about that. It is about his work and his genius. The relationship of Ramanujan and Hardy and the relationship of Ramanujan to his spirituality and mathematical genius are diffused where they should have been sharpened.

Overall this is pleasant, as long as you understand that it is not real biography. It is a biopic "based on" the life of Ramanujan. For a (fictional) movie about a math genius that I liked better see Proof (2005).