Creation: The True Story of Charles Darwin
Directed by Jon Amiel
Newmarket Films, 2010.
The stirring biopic Creation looks at how the foundational work on evolutionary biology, On the Origin of Species, came to be written.
Based on the biography Annie’s Box: Charles Darwin, His Daughter and Human Evolution by Randal Keynes (Darwin’s descendant), this screen adaptation stars Paul Bettany as Charles Darwin and Academy Award winner Jennifer Connelly as his wife Emma.
The movie introduces us to Darwin – friend, scientist, father, and husband – whose idyllic life is torn apart by the tragic death of his daughter Annie. Isolating himself almost to the point of insanity and ill health, Darwin forces himself to complete the book, while living through the grief of Annie’s death, for which he claims sole responsibility.
The film constantly flips from Darwin’s past to his disillusioned present, which at times makes the plot difficult to follow. However, this time travel enables the audience to understand his distress about the impact his discoveries will have on those around him, particularly his deeply-loved wife Emma, and her unwavering Christian faith.
A pivotal moment occurs when Darwin’s friend, Thomas Huxley (played by Toby Jones), charges him with killing God. Darwin suffers a slight panic attack and states it’s not his intention to destroy the church.
While the story focuses on the events that take place in his life as he writes the book, there is an emphasis on Darwin’s struggle to commit to a belief in science or religion. However, the argument of science versus religion is not depicted in scientific or intellectual ways, as is most often the case, but through the eyes of innocent and curious Annie, and her loving father.
Together Annie and Darwin, revolutionaries of their time, embrace evolution and natural selection, coming against a cold religious world that does not want to ask the “whys” in understanding physical reality.
There are moments where the plot lacks excitement, but the soundtrack is captivating and the
cinematography breathtaking. In the end, the viewer is led to feel positive about Darwin’s completing his work and reconciling his relationships. The film’s conclusion suggests support for Darwinian theories, their implications to society at that time, and for his diminishing faith.