Dev Patel and Stephen Fry
The Man Who Knew Infinity may sound like a rather bad Bond knockoff, but it is really a classy, if unambitious, biopic of Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan and his collaboration with British mentor G.H. Hardy.
Hollywood’s go-to Indian actor Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) gives Ramanujan’s story a sympathetic bent as the uneducated, natural mathematical genius struggles to adapt to academic life at England’s prestigious Trinity College. While his mentor, Hardy (Jeremy Irons), constantly begs Ramanujan for proofs of his increasingly impressive theorems, the young man deals with some serious cultural disconnects. And that is before World War I begins.
Irons does nothing less than what is expected, but he does it with a magnetic charm, despite playing a cold math professor. The film, from unknown writer-director Matthew Brown—helming only his second feature since 2000’s Ropewalk—benefits from audience unfamiliarity with this sadly under-told true story, as it otherwise adheres pretty faithfully to the inspirational biopic boilerplate. Though I do wonder if the running joke about Toby Jones’ Littlewood being a figment of Hardy’s imagination is a cute little nod to the last memorable mathematical biopic, A Beautiful Mind (15-year-old spoiler alert: his friends don’t exist).