Movies: A couple of enjoyable little British Indies – The Man Who Knew Infinity and Love & Friendship

The Man Who Knew Infinity

This movie chronicles the true story of a twentieth century mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan, (played by Dev Patel) living in Madras in abject poverty and without an education. He spends his time creating mathematical equations wherever and whenever he can. Despite his lack of formal education, he is able to convince a fellow at Cambridge’s Trinity College (Jeremy Irons) to invite him to England in 1914 where he become his protégé. They collaborate together for several years and Ramanujan’s resulting work was considered innovative and creative, with significant mathematical breakthroughs, which I can’t begin to comprehend.   He died tragically at the age of 32 after a lifetime of illness.

There is a lot to like about this movie, most notably Jeremy Iron’s performance which was perfection but throughout it, I felt that there could have been more. Dev Patel was fine but I didn’t find his portrayal much different than the characters he played in Slumdog or the Best Marigold Hotel. Even though I knew nothing about Ramanujan’s life, I found the movie fairly predictable. The relationship between the Mathematician and his wife could have used a little more development and I could have used a deeper dive into the passion around math that consumed Patel working together with Irons. The writers had a difficult task to make the mathematics understandable to the viewing public but I thought this was accomplished more effectively in “A Beautiful Mind”.

These are really minor quibbles and  you won’t be disappointed if you see the movie. I doubt if most people know this story and it is certainly an interesting one. Even with no understanding of the math involved, you can’t help but walk away with the feeling that Ramanujan’s premature death at 32 deprived the world of quantum leaps in the field.  If you love “England”, you’ll be bowled over by the beautiful Cambridge buildings especially the first time Srinivasa lays eyes on it.

Love & Friendship

Love & Friendship is based on Jane Austin’s novella “Lady Susan”.   Kate Beckinsale plays the villainess “Lady Susan” a widow with no money who needs to marry either herself or her daughter (or preferably both) to a wealthy Englishman. She mooches off a brother in law as she manipulates those around her in the quest for a husband. Her main focus is to pair up her sweet innocent daughter with an idiotic bloke who is hilariously played by Tom Bennett.

Love moves quickly with pithy dialogue, marvelous scenery and gorgeous costumes that take the viewer back to the Jane Austin era. I haven’t read the book but I suspect the humor comes primarily from Director/Screenwriter Whit Stillman who is also the producer of this quirky comedic period piece. Starting with the very funny introductions of the characters, there are many laugh out loud moments in this nifty little Indie. Anyone who likes Jane Austin, great writing and a little British humor should enjoy this film.