There are few people today who are unfamiliar with Darwin’s theory of evolution, expressed in his seminal work On the Origin of Species, which celebrated its 150th anniversary last year (2009). But how much do we know about the man Charles Darwin? The husband and father whose research forced a fundamental shift in thinking? Creation has been adapted from the book Annie’s Box, written by British conservationist, Randal Keynes (Darwin’s great great grandson) and looks to give audiences a glimpse into the personal life of Darwin.
The film focuses on Darwin’s (Paul Bettany, Legion) relationship with his eldest daughter, Annie (Martha West, daughter of The Wire’s Dominic West) who tragically died at the age of 10. Darwin’s grief affects both his physical and mental health. He is paralysed, caught between science, his empirical findings and religion, part of his family life. Charles’ loving wife, Emma (played by Bettany’s real-life wife, Jennifer Connelly, House of Sand and Fog), is unwaiving in her religious beliefs and this causes her to not only worry about her husband’s deteriorating condition, but also his potential eternal resting place.
British director Jon Amiel (The Core, The Man who Knew Too Little) glorifies nature throughout the film, with enhanced scenes of the natural world, emphasised in vivid colours. The wonder of nature is in sharp contrast to the darkening gloom of Darwin’s mind. Haunted by guilt, real and imagined, Darwin seems to be living a life in limbo-caught in memories of happier times.
Creation is also a film concerned with storytelling. Darwin at times proves to be an enthralling narrator, as he tells tales from his explorations and studies- that seem to highlight the best-intentioned, tragedy of Western men’s interference with nature. These sections are some of the most engaging parts of the film.
This insight into Darwin’s life, specifically the idea that during this period his professional and personal life were drawn in vastly different directions, is fascinating. But Creation seems preoccupied with the family drama unsure how to balance in the science. Without bringing in the broader frames of reference, hinted at in the roles of Benedict Cumberbatch (Joseph Hooker, Atonement) and Thomas Huxley (Toby Jones, Infamous), the film at time struggles with the religion vs science debate it has set up. But Creation is by no means a wash out. With solid performances, this film provides an interesting alternative look at one of the most influential scientists of the modern era.
Creation is released in Australia on 15th July
Director: Jon Amiel
Cast: Paul Bettany, Jennifer Connelly, Martha West, Jeremy Northam, Toby Jones, Beneditc Cumberbatch, Jim Carter