Review: Creation

Slow-cooker Darwin story shows us the family man, not the scientist.

By Laura Dannen February 22, 2010

Charles Darwin (Bettany) and his brood in Creation.

Talk about unnecessary drama. Jon Amiel’s Creation—a BBC film about Charles Darwin—opened in England last fall, months before it would secure distribution in the United States. The British press chalked the delay up to latent Puritanism in the American markets; others blamed the film’s distribution team for a lackluster effort. Whatever the reason, there’s nothing contentious about this movie. It’s less the story of a scientist than of a family man, one who long ago hung up his explorer’s hat (though we see moments of his Galapagos days in flashback). In the role of a lifetime, Paul Bettany is Darwin: a frail, wispy shell of a man reeling from the death of eldest daughter Annie (Martha West), who appears to him as a chipper, smiling ghost throughout the movie. With natural selection seeming to play out all around him, a guilt-wracked Darwin suffers a nervous breakdown and keeps his theory of evolution locked away—literally, in a trunk. This is not a man at war with God—he’s at war with himself, knowing too well that publishing his findings will break the heart of his Bible-toting wife Emma (played by real-life partner Jennifer Connelly).

The film drags on at times with laborious scenes dedicated to 19th-century medical treatments, but it’s still a thoughtful character study of a reluctant revolutionary (based on Darwin biography Annie’s Box by the scientist’s great-great-grandson Randal Keynes).

Creation is now in limited release. It screens at Landmark Theatres.

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