The Man Who Knew Infinity tells the story of Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel), a Maths pioneer from Madras, India, who earns admittance to Cambridge University around the beginning of the First World War to study and publish his findings. He is aided by his mentor, GH Hardy (Jeremy Irons). It is a biographical film, based on a book of the same name by Robert Kanigel and is directed by Matthew Brown.
I enjoyed the film and I feel it’s an important film to be made to raise people’s awareness of Ramanujan’s discoveries (I’d certainly never heard of him). The film doesn’t shy away from the institutional racism that Ramanujan suffered, from both students and staff. Patel and Irons give strong performances, especially Irons, and they are well supported by Toby Jones as another lecturer at Trinity College.
I did get frustrated at times during the film, but with the character not Patel’s performance. Hardy tells him several times that he needs to be able to prove that his formulas work before they can be published, but in the film Ramanujan gets frustrated by this, rather arrogantly assuming that they work, and instead of working on his proofs he comes up with more formulas, which infuriates Hardy and myself as a viewer. Maybe it’s coming from a more modern education (Ramanujan was never formally educated) and having it drilled into me that you ‘must show your workings out’, but I kept getting annoyed that he was ignoring Hardy’s advice, and as he is told during one scene ‘a little humility wouldn’t go amiss’. As I’ve not read the book I’m not sure whether this character trait is based on fact or whether it was invented for the film.
Overall this is quite a good film, not the best biography I’ve seen but I appreciate making a film of someone doing maths and keeping the audience’s interest can be a challenge! It’s worth seeing to find out more about Ramanujan’s unbelievable gift, but maybe wait until it’s on TV.