Released on the bi-centenary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th publishing anniversary of On The Origin Of Species, Creation opts to view the naturalist through a domestic prism; struggling to bridge a gulf of faith with his wife while preparing to publish the theories which will rock the religious establishment.
Jon Amiel, working from core material written by one of Darwin’s descendants, focuses on the ailing Darwin’s (Bettany) marriage to his first cousin Emma (Connelly), under further strain after the death of their beloved 10-year-old daughter Annie (West).
A life of Darwin in a 108-minute running time is by nature reductive, and Amiel and producer Jeremy Thomas are evidently hoping for wider audiences with Creation’s humanising focus on his family. The danger is that devices - such as Annie’s ghost, whom Darwin uses as a sounding board - could alienate the film’s core upmarket crowd. Creation also has a tendency to become mired in the domestic, with Darwin scampering off to look at a rock formation every now and again to remind viewers of what this is really about.
But deft visual flourishes and some strong emotive touches here could connect with wider crowds, given critical support and enthusiastic marketing - awards recognition for Paul Bettany is crucial to this film’s success in a marketplace where natural selection is particularly brutal at the moment.
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Bettany is undoubtedly the film’s main asset: physically and emotionally convincing as Darwin in a very tricky role. . . .
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