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Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

FOR A film that explores the formation of one of the biggest and most controversial novels of all-time – based on the theory of evolution – Jon Amiel’s Creation is an incredibly intimate affair.

The film focuses on the turbulent period between the death of Darwin’s first daughter, Annie, and the publication of his seminal work, On The Origin of Species, during which it also flashes back to happier times, as Darwin first began investigating his theory while enjoying family life.

In adopting this non-linear approach, Amiel further incorporates elements of ghost story as Darwin’s insular existence is highlighted by the close bond he still shares with the apparition of Annie… a ‘relationship’ that comes at the expense of his wife, Emma, and remaining children.

For the most part, the film that results is a beguiling and thought-provoking experience, buoyed by an impressive central performance by Paul Bettany as Darwin.

The actor captures the tortured existence of this greatest of thinkers in exemplary fashion, never overplaying things and imbuing him with the anger, humility and intelligence the role deserves.

His relationship with Martha West’s Annie, meanwhile, is both touching and authentic, underlining the heartache caused by the young girl’s premature death.

But while Bettany is great and undoubtedly the main reason for seeing the film, Amiel’s direction occasionally feels straight-jacketed by both its period setting and BBC funding.

The film perhaps needed to take a few more risks and fails to fully utilise all of the talent at its disposal, which threatens to undermine its overall enjoyment value.

Jeremy Northam’s family friend and priest, for instance, is under-used and would have benefited from a few more confrontations with Bettany’s Darwin, which would, in turn, have heightened the dramatic thrust of the film… while Jennifer Connelly’s Emma (Darwin’s wife), also appears much too mild-mannered for someone whose whole belief system was rocked by her husband’s work.

A generous running time also draws out proceedings far longer than necessary and renders the film open to accusations of being worthy but dull.

Bettany, however, ensures Creation will stay with those viewers who are fascinated by its themes, and who appreciate its intimate, slow-burning approach.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 1hr 50mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: January 18, 2010