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The West Wing
English naturalist Charles Darwin struggles to find a balance between his revolutionary theories on evolution and the relationship with religious wife, whose faith contradicts his work.
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Not released in America until early next year for the award season, Creation (dir. Jon Amiel) was released in the UK this September to mark not just the two hundredth birthday of Charles Darwin, but also one hundred and fifty years since his controversial book, The Origin of Species, was first published. Although most religious people wouldn’t have second thoughts on seeing this film, it isn’t what you’d expect as its focus point of the famous figure.
As someone who doesn’t know much about the famous book on evolution nor the controversy surrounding it, the narrative tries to stay away from the actual events leading towards it’s development and this did surprise me for what it was trying to focus on instead.
The story takes place a few years after the death of Charles and Emma Darwin’s (Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly) eldest daughter and Charles is struggling to complete the development of The Origin of Species, suffering with deep depression and anxiety. This only takes a rather more surreal approach when we see Charles being confronted several times by the ghost (or imagination) of his eldest daughter, Annie Darwin (Martha West) when he is alone.
Using the story as it’s mainframe, the film also shows flashbacks of when Annie was alive and how she died, as well as showing stories that Charles told to her. These scenes break up the film quite nicely and are lovely distractions from the bleak storyline.
Although all of the actors and actresses in the film have done a great job at their roles, it’s the central actor who plays Charles Darwin that is the real attention grabber.
Paul Bettany plays the lead character really well, showing how to change the character’s wellbeing between the flashbacks and the time period the narrative’s set in. This also let me feel emotional for his portrayal, as we see him struggling to continue working on the theory he knows should be completed, while his religious wife and their church are trying to make him stop following what they see as “nonsense”. Although I would like to talk more about the actor’s performance, there really isn’t much more to add and though his acting in this film may not match up to Gabourey ‘Gabby’ Sidibe’s role in the acclaimed Precious (dir. Lee Daniels), he should still be noticed for his remarkable and honest performance.
One of the things that I found surprising about the crew on the production was the choice of director and writer to make it, because they have both previously worked in very different films from Creation and have both done a good job for the finished product.
Jon Amiel, who directed the film, had previously worked on action-orientated American productions, his most well known including The Core (dir. Jon Amiel) and Entrapment (dir. Jon Amiel), while the screenwriter John Collee previously wrote Happy Feet (dir. George Miller) and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (dir. Peter Weir).
The direction then is a very interesting one, showing audiences the pure mental breakdown Charles was suffering during that time and how everyone around him reacted, with dark and murky lighting used to give the impression of the lead character’s feelings. Although the direction is an interesting one, it doesn’t feel very characteristic or atmospheric at that, giving it the appeal of another typical period drama rather than a breath of fresh air.
On the other hand, the screenplay is not very original either and this too feels all too familiar compared to the typical British period dramas. The main focus on what it’s trying to say is slightly off-putting due to the fact that we see the main character dealing with his daughter’s death, but then the writer was obviously trying to fit around the making of the famed book as well. Structure of the narrative is done well though and the flashbacks and stories included do bring in nice breaks when not a lot is happening in the main storyline.
My final verdict is that this isn’t the best film you’re going to see, but then it’s not the worst either. The story is slightly unfocussed and can be slightly confusing on what it’s trying to say, but overall the film is a good and interesting portrayal of Charles Darwin.