Charles Darwin’s earth-shattering publication of his theory of evolution came after a period of immense personal turmoil and self-recrimination. While critics and supporters predicted that his revelations would effectively kill God, they also put him at odds with his devout wife, Emma. To confound his torment, Darwin was also still reeling from the death of his first daughter.
Jon Amiel’s Creation offers a worthy, thought-provoking insight into Darwin’s story and boasts a terrific central performance from Paul Bettany. But unfortunately the film doesn’t take as many risks as it should, careful not to re-ignite too many age-old debates, and it’s possible that the director’s rather strait-laced approach is a by-product of the film’s BBC funding.
In the strong cast, Jeremy Northam’s family friend and priest is under-used when a few more confrontations would have improved the dramatic tension, while Paul Bettany’s real-life wife Jennifer Connelly feels too restrained in her role as Darwin’s loving but cautious wife Emma.
Bettany, however, compensates with his portrayal of Darwin as a deeply tortured soul, still suffering from ghostly visions of his daughter and imbuing him with the anger and humility the role demands. It’s worth seeing for him alone.
(PG) 108min. General release from Fri 25 Sep.