Charles Darwin wrote arguably the second most influential book in history, On the Origin of Species, which laid out his theory of evolution. While his ideas continue to be debated, a new film, Creation, attempts to put flesh on an iconic figure by showing Darwin (Paul Bettany) as a father, husband, and man in crisis.
The film (rated PG-13) covers a slice of Darwin's life. He is a middle-aged man living in England, and his trip aboard the Beagle is behind him. With his wife Emma (Jennifer Connelly), he raises his children and attempts to work on his book.
Only problem? He has a major case of writer's block.
A gulf has widened between him and Emma. As he slowly loses faith, she remains devout. The death of their precious daughter Annie devastates both of them; they cannot find a way to comfort each other.
Charles also clearly sees the implications of his theory on faith and society. Director Jon Amiel described him as "a deeply shy and socially conservative man who finds himself almost unwillingly in possession of this ideological time bomb, and he is deeply unwilling to throw that bomb into the middle of a society he fundamentally respects and endorses."
In the film, Darwin calls Christianity the "barque," or small boat, that carries civilization. Although he no longer believes it himself, he does not want to capsize it. All these pressures are nearly too much, and Darwin suffers from an ailment that many now believe to be psychosomatic.
This film is less about evolution, creationism, or even loss of faith, and more about a tormented man making peace with his demons and his family. Bettany and real-life wife Connelly bring us a powerful love story between two married people. On that level, the film works very well.