Limited in scope – The Man Who Knew Infinity (Film Review)

Based around the real life exploits of Srinivasa Ramanujan (a man whose name I take no pleasure in attempting to spell) a self-taught mathematical genius, and his burgeoning relationship with Professor G.H Hardy (Jeremy Irons), following his admittance to Cambridge University. Ramanujan (Dev Patel) must overcome the racism and subjugation he faces in his attempts to revolutionise mathematics forever.

Dev Patel’s earnest portrayal of a man inspired by numbers, such a rigid scourge for most of us, and the spontaneity it propels within him makes him a likeable and empathetic character. Patel is assisted by the frankly astounding true story surrounding Ramanujan’s rise to the forefront of the academic field, and he delivers a nuanced performance worthy of the remarkably talented man. Jeremy Irons no longer seems to exert much effort in his performances, and manages to do so without sacrificing any of his charisma. Like other hugely experienced actors this role is something Irons could perform ably in a coma, he brings the acerbic Hardy to life, and the scenes displaying his developing relationship with Patel’s Ramanujan are the films strongest moments.

The Man Who Knew Infinity

However despite boasting an impressive ensemble, including Toby Jones and Stephen Fry, none of the other performances feel anywhere near as detailed, through either the writing or the acting. Also despite the undeniably impressive nature of Ramanujan’s accomplishments the story feels familiar, which would not be an issue if The Man Who Knew Infinity surpassed the brilliance of movies such as Good Will Hunting, A Beautiful Mind and The Imitation Game. However the script isn’t quite up to the standard of its competitors and Matt Brown’s direction is well accomplished, but limited in scope. He develops a fine sense of rhythm in the sequences with Patel and Irons but the overarching narrative feels incomplete and anticlimactic. In his defence the budget of The Man Who Knew Infinity is clearly restricted, and despite being able to film at Trinity College, Cambridge, the sections set in India feel unsuitably restrained. Coby Brown’s score is eloquent and entwines well with the atmosphere that Matt Brown does manage to create.

It’s always a pleasure to see a talented actor such as Dev Patel take on a role as impactful as Srinivasa Ramanujan, and he has clearly dedicated himself profusely to honouring the legacy of one of the most uniquely gifted men of the last century. He is ably supported by the terrific Irons, who is clearly enjoying his work at the moment with this being his third theatrically released film of the year already. The Man Who Knew Infinity’s message of perseverance and embracing your individuality make it a difficult film to dislike, however its themes have been tackled before and with more success in other features. A fine effort and worth a watch for Patel and Irons, but it may remind you of other, better, films.


Dir: Matthew Brown

Scr: Matthew Brown

Cast: Dev Patel, Jeremy Irons, Stephen Fry, Toby Jones

DOP: Larry Smith

Music: Coby Brown

Country: United Kingdom

Year: 2016

Run time: 108 Minutes

The Man Who Knew Infinity is out now in UK cinemas