Creation (2010)

Directed by: Jon Amiel

Premise: A dramatization of Charles Darwin and his family as Darwin writes his book On the Origin of Species.

What Works: Creation is a very smart film about the struggle between faith and reason and it explores the comforts and shortcomings of each. Darwin is portrayed as a man who is troubled by the implications of his own scientific theory and is wracked with guilt over the death of his daughter. The two sources of Darwin’s strain are linked but the story smartly sets the production of the book in the background and instead foreground’s Darwin’s strained relationship with his wife (Jennifer Connelly) and the health woes of their children. This is really a story about loss and the ways human beings recover from tragedy, similar to 21 Grams, Things We Lost in the Fire and The Sweet Hereafter. With this grieving start, Creation sets its characters on an ambitious but ultimately successful path of not only facing their guilt and sadness but of coming to a new place spiritually and achieving a new understanding of their world. Between the start and the conclusion of the film, Creation sets the comfort that religious belief can provide against the intellectual impotence and emotional abuse that religious dogma can foster. At the same time, Creation pits the truth of science against its own lack of emotional warmth or the consolation of absolutistic morality. The dual nature of each of these belief systems is played out quite effectively throughout the movie.

What Doesn’t: Creation does indulge melodrama at times and this is less of a story than it is a cinematic poem, similar to Terrence Malick’s films like The Thin Red Line or The New World. For viewers who understand Creation and can appreciate it, their patience will be well rewarded. But the film’s plot is fairly thin.

DVD extras: Commentary track, featurettes, and a documentary.

Bottom Line: Creation is a thoughtful piece of filmmaking. It is challenging at times but it is also an effective exploration of reason and faith and of the process of redefining ourselves when confronted with new truths.

Episode: #305 (September 12, 2010)