The Man Who Knew Infinity review — By the numbers biopic

Written and directed by Matt Brown | Adapting a biography by Robert Kaniglel | 108 min | ▲▲△△△


Indian national S. Ramanujan (Dev Patel) was a mathematician in early 20th Century Madras invited by the stuffy Cambridge University to work on his formulas with their own math wizard GH Hardy (Jeremy Irons), despite resistance from certain conservative and outright racist elements of the college.

Ramanujan’s insecure mother (Arundathi Nag) doesn’t want him to go to England, while his wife (Devika Boise) is dutifully supportive. In Cambridge, Hardy is academic and brusk, with only his colleague Littlewood (Toby Jones) actually welcoming Ramanujan with any warmth.

Then the story shifts to how Ramanujan finds his way to the numbers by divine inspiration, while Hardy insists on proofs to explain how he reaches his conclusions.


All of this is fine—there’s dramatic currency in Ramanujan’s struggle to be recognized for his work in the face of bigotry, and in the complicated relationship between him and Hardy, and Patel and Irons are good in their roles. The problem is that the stakes are resolutely lukewarm. The dramatic importance of pure mathematics isn’t given any weight. It might all be important to Ramanujan and Hardy, but why is it important to the world?

And a film where numbers play such a major part of the story, Brown makes almost no effort to enliven the math the way films like A Dangerous Mind or The Imitation Game did, instead passing a lot of paper around like it means something. In direction, score, and script, The Man Who Knew Infinity barely adds up, an aggressively conventional film, reaching out and grabbing cliches of the biopic genre with both hands.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.