Just weeks before the publication of his seminal book, On The Origin of Species, Charles and Emma Darwin (Paul Bettany & Jennifer Connelly), are grieving the death of their 10-year-old, Annie (Martha West). Her death has destroyed Darwin's remaining faith in God but reinforced his wife's. They differ dramatically and implacably over their belief in the creation of the universe and Charles is aware of the potential impact his work would have on the world at large.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Creation is not the story of the creation; nor is it a happy families story as the poster might imply. For the most part, it's a sombre and gloomy story about a dark period in Charles (Paul Bettany) and Emma Darwin's (Jennifer Connelly) lives in which their beloved daughter Annie dies, Charles falls ill and the profoundly Christian Emma is in spiritual conflict with her husband over his scientific approach to the origin of all species, including man.
Charles Darwin is himself rather reluctant to go public with his work, despite being prompted by the likes of Thomas Huxley (Toby Jones) and Joseph Hooker (Sebastian Cumberbatch), two of his greatest supporters. Huxley gleefully tells Darwin that he's just killed God. The conflict between Charles and Emma, together with Annie's haunting presence are the central themes of the film, although there are a few passages that give us a glimpse into the formulation of his theory of evolution.
The themes of the couple's conflict over creation versus evolution are not fully explored or dramatised enough, given the shattering force of Darwin's theory on 19th century Christianity, society and politics. But maybe that's just me; I'm eternally curious.
Jennifer Connelly is vulnerable and melancholy, Paul Bettany is tortured and intense. Jeremy Northam is a bit thrown away as the local priest, but little Martha West is a ray of sunshine as Annie. No wonder her dad adored her.
Based on the Darwin biography by Randall Keynes (Darwin's great great grandson), John Collee's screenplay is probably somewhat better than the film suggests (and originally had a more playful tone), insofar as the story and the elements are dramatic and interesting, but the execution, notably structure and editing, garble the story and mute the emotions. There is one wonderful, long, single shot scene, though, in which Charles and Emma put to rest their demons. This is well written and superbly realised - and moving.
But the time jumps (he's almost 50 when his book is published, Annie died 10 years earlier) in much of the film are confusing; even though Bettany has a receding hairline in the scenes where he is older, we are forever trying to figure out where we are and what is the story trajectory.
Although it's not totally satisfying, Creation is of at least partial interest to those who devour the processes that have changed our world. And who are interested to see something of Darwin the man, not the legend.
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JOHN COLLEE INTERVIEW
CAST: Paul Bettany, Jennifer Connelly, Jeremy Northam, Toby Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jim Carter, Theresa Chrucher, Martha West
PRODUCER: Jeremy Thomas
DIRECTOR: Jon Amiel
SCRIPT: John Collee (biography by Randal Keynes)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jess Hall
EDITOR: Melanie Oliver
MUSIC: Christopher Young
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Laurence Dorman
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 8, 2010