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Genre Biography
Year: 2009

Charles Darwin, an English naturalist in the 1800s published his theory of evolution in On the Origin of the Species, a book which sold out immediately, providing compelling evidence for evolution and now regarded as a fundamental life sciences principle in explaining the diversity of life. Creation details Darwin's evolution of thought as he gets to grips with actually writing and completing On the Origin of the Species. The film also suggests that Darwin was so passionate and dedicated to his field of work that he neglected his family, his health and his reputation within the community.

Creation filters a series of memoirs into a narrative, going back-and-forth in time to show Darwin's progression of thought as he combats writer's block, illness, the narrow-minded and ghosts from the past. The cinematography is breathtaking, weaving a series of artworks together with some wonderful visual effects making Creation quite poetic with Jon Amiel at the helm. The narrative is just as poetic, maintaining form but breaking chronological sequences with only Darwin's hairline as a substitute for a timeline. Perhaps this was a conscious editing decision to alleviate a dull A-to-B series of events?

The continuity factor is the man himself, a portrait so lovingly depicted by Paul Bettany, whose make-up has made Darwin look a little like Jane the Ape, an orangutan at the London Zoo. The real Darwin's photographic demeanor is explained away by a photo of Ann his daughter - making a rather stern looking man with very little hair open to interpretation. Creation sets about formulating Darwin's character as a gentle and broad-minded soul. The journey is quite eye-opening for audiences, who may or may not have realised what Charles Darwin's home life may have been like.

Bettany is supported by Jennifer Connelly as his wife, Emma. The marketing would have you believe that the majority of the drama falls between their relationship as Emma's faith contradicts his work. However, it's Bettany who is the only lead and each aspect of his life is dealt with in equal measures. The marriage and relationship with Emma is an overriding theme, but this adaptation of the biography by Randall Keynes picks at many threads of the man's life. This creates a scatter-shot sense of narrative progression, which is compounded by apparitions and flashbacks.

The performances are key to the enjoyment of Creation as Bettany delivers what most would regard as a career best. Jennifer Connelly makes amazing use of her screen time, chalking up a solid supporting performance as Darwin's detached wife. The casting is excellent with Bettany coming off of projects like Master and Commander, The Da Vinci Code and A Beautiful Mind. This backlog of performances harks back to Darwin's 5 year naturalist exploration, his controversial standpoint with the Church and echoes of his role in the psychological drama about world renowned mathematician, John Nash.

The film pads around the theory of evolution without trying to preach too much. After all, this is a biography about the essence of the man rather than the theory of evolution. The film's aesthetic will draw you in and the drama, costumes and period are ironically comparable with Amazing Grace. Jon Amiel redeems his wide-ranging feature film career with this piece, even if it be for the cinematography and ensemble's drive for perfection. The timeline may have no bearing, but the elemental representation of Darwin's biography is bearable and compelling enough to warrant your time. It's no The Diving Bell & The Butterfly, but since its one of the only modern depictions of Charles Darwin, it makes for thought-provoking viewing.

The bottom line: Elemental.


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