The Man Who Knew Infinity is about Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel), who grows up in poverty in Madras, India, but has amazing mathematical gifts. Friends persuade him to share some of his work with academics at Cambridge University, one of whom is G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Lyons). Hardy invites Ramanujan to go to England. Ramanujan arrives expecting to have his work published, but he’s met by cultural imperialism at its worst.
Hardy insists that Ramanujan attend lectures to gain ‘academic rigour’, something very foreign to Ramanujan. Hardy also requires Ramanujan to write proofs for all of his theorems, saying that otherwise they won’t be taken seriously. Along with Littlewood (Toby Jones) and Bertrand Russell (Jeremy Northam), Hardy encourages Ramanujan, but many of the traditional academic staff think that Ramanujan is nothing more than a charlatan. Ramanujan goes on to prove them wrong.
Racism; fatal illness; suicide; war
The Man Who Knew Infinity has some violence. For example:
- A professor yells at Ramanujan, hits him and pushes him over for showing him up in the lecture theatre.
- Some students who have signed up as soldiers start taunting Ramanujan. They call him names and then push him over. Ramanujan falls to the ground and the students kick him viciously.
- A plane flies low over the university grounds. It drops a bomb, which explodes near Ramanujan. A woman is seen dead on the ground.
- Ramanujan is sick with tuberculosis and thinks he has nothing left to live for. He stands at the side of a railway track. A scream is heard and the screen goes white. The next scene shows Ramanujan unconscious in hospital. He has jumped in front of the train, but the driver stopped in time.
The Man Who Knew Infinity has some sexual references. For example:
- Ramanujan marries a girl called Janaki at a young age. He says he’ll sleep on the floor. She tells him he should sleep in the bed with her.
- Ramanujan and Janaki kiss.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
The Man Who Knew Infinity shows some use of substances. For example:
- Hardy smokes cigarettes and a pipe throughout the movie.
- Adults drink socially.
Nudity and sexual activity
None of concern
None of concern
The Man Who Knew Infinity has some coarse language, as well as racist taunts directed at Ramanujan.
Ideas to discuss with your children
The Man Who Knew Infinity is a biographical drama about the life of the famous mathematician Ramanujan. The movie also documents the open racism of the early 20th century. It’s interesting to see the historical contrast between life in Madras (now Chennai) and life at Cambridge University.
There’s some fairly mild violence in this movie, which could upset younger children, as could the movie’s themes of racism and fatal illness. The movie probably lacks interest for most children under 13 years and is more suited to older children, teenagers and adults.
The main messages from this movie are to persevere with what you know to be true and not to give up in the face of adversity.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include determination, persistence and resilience. You could also discuss the racism shown in the movie.