Get your calculators out and prepare your brains to be scrambled with Matt Brown’s big screen adaptation of The Man Who Knew Infinity, the story of Indian maths whiz Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar. Based on Robert Kanigel’s biography The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan, and starring Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel alongside Jeremy Irons, the film portrays the self-taught intellect’s rise to academic recognition amongst a backdrop of racial and social discrimination, as well as his influential working relationship with G.H. Hardy.
Following Ramanujan (Patel) from penniless wannabe scrambling around the streets of India to give his new wife and clingy mother a roof over their heads, to esteemed fellow at one of the world’s leading universities, it’s a busy ol’ spectacle. With war looming over Europe and British-Indian relations far from harmonious, there’s a dense fog hanging over this crammed biography.
There’s plenty of sums to be done and the odd abacus to be found, but Brown’s work has plenty of heart under all its mathematical jargon. Like Jaws isn’t just about the shark, The Man Who Knew Infinity is more than just numbers. Two men – Ramanujan, the god-loving, uneducated genius and Hardy (played by Irons), the uneasy, uncomfortable, yet intellectually remarkable, atheist – come together and form a relationship which would impact far more than just their academic accomplishments.
Without the glitzy theatrics of other bio flicks, TMWKI manages to successfully navigate, without ever feeling the need to be overly exuberant, the development of two interesting characters, while subtly dealing with a highly charged back drop of class, race and war, as it ties itself up into one thoroughly number loving, engaging and well-acted bow.