Best Movies of All Time + Paul Bettany



You can watch the trailer here

If you're looking for a movie about Charles Darwin that's going to give you a little insight on his discoveries, this isn't really the film for you. If you want a sweeping movie about his many adventures into then-uncharted territory, go find something else. This is a study about the man himself as he struggled to put pen to paper and create his world-changing book, On the Origin of Species.

Director Jon Amiel's tale opens on Darwin (Paul Bettany) telling a story to his eldest daughter Annie (Martha West) of one of his many adventures. We soon learn that Darwin has been trying to write his book for some time now, but the death of Annie has thrown him into a tailspin. He has taken physically ill and constantly conjures Annie in hallucination as she continues to haunt him. The film progresses through the present moment interspersed with a series of flashbacks to Annie's life, illness and death. Throughout, we see the dynamic between Darwin and his wife Emma (Jennifer Connelly), who remains staunchly religious in her convictions despite her husband's beliefs against it. Annie's death spurs a rift in their marriage, sending her more strongly towards religion while he takes solace in science. However, as time continues to progress and he accomplishes nothing, Darwin learns he must face his demons - namely, the handling of Annie's final days of life - before he can take up this "war against God" with his theory of evolution.

If anything, this film carries a lot of intense emotions that may not convey to most viewers. There's no real place for the viewer to hook themselves into the movie or the family's dynamic, so it's difficult to get attached to the situations at hand. I'll admit that I teared up a bit at Annie's death, but I just feel like I missed some of the power of the scene. The screenplay is filled with moments like this. It's as though they were trying much too hard in order to craft an intensely emotional story, and it just comes across as moderately emotional. However, there is one scene where Darwin is studying a captive orangutan that is rather precious to behold.

The acting is definitely not the issue here. Bettany is wonderful as always, but to be fair, he's essentially played a Charles Darwin-esque character before (see 2003's Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World). In fact, if you want to see "Darwin" out in the wild, actually studying the world, that's probably the better film to watch. Sure, you'll have to sit through some action sequences, but that movie's just fantastic anyways, so you should watch it. Connelly is also very good in a role that could either be classified as a lead or supporting role (it really comes down to your personal preference). However, the real spotlight should go to young Martha West who, in her first (and to this date, only) feature film, is an absolute revelation (although, as the daughter of 300 actor Dominic West, it's not difficult to see where she gets her acting chops). She brings such a power and wonder to her role that it's hard not to like the Annie she creates. I was thoroughly impressed.

As I said before: this film may not be for everyone, especially if you're looking for the sense of adventure Darwin must have felt on his many journeys and expeditions. For me, it's a little difficult to categorize. Although there were some issues with the storyline and the film's emotion, I cannot say enough about the greatness of the ensemble's acting. It's probably not a movie I'll watch again, but I'm not angry that I spent nearly two hours watching it. It's just one of those in-between movies that's nice to watch in a bit of down time, but don't expect anything absolutely brilliant.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: B-
Thumb... Sideways

2010, Creation, drama, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Amiel, life, Martha West, movie review, and more:

Relevant to: CREATION + Paul Bettany