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The Green Life: Movie Review Friday: Creation

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January 29, 2010

Movie Review Friday: Creation

Escape to the movies with one of our Movie Review Friday selections. Each week we review a film with an environmental theme that's currently in theaters or available on DVD. Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us a short review and look for it in the next Movie Review Friday.

Creation (2010)

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Many amateur naturalists dream of what it would have been like to explore the Galapagos on the H.M.S. Beagle, Charles Darwin at your side, watching the scientist’s mind at work as he sorted out his budding theory. This film, however, provides an affecting portrait of Darwin (Paul Bettany) later in life, his discoveries mostly behind him, his tales of adventure merely stories he tells his children before bedtime.

Based on the book Annie’s Box,  by Darwin’s great-great grandson Randal Keynes, this earnest and visually appealing film centers around the death of Darwin’s ten-year-old daughter Annie in 1851, whom we meet through father-daughter flashbacks and through her ghost, which haunts the scientist to the point of near insanity. In the midst of this turmoil, Darwin wrestles with the implications of publishing The Origin of Species, a book his supporters predict will "kill God." Jennifer Connelly (Bettany’s real-life spouse) gives a convincing performance as Darwin’s devoutly religious wife, who supports her husband’s scientific pursuits but worries for his soul.

Like many Hollywood biopics, Creation attempts to depict the man behind the massive achievement, and in its endeavor occasionally slips into sentiment and oversimplification. Apart from a beautiful opening montage and a few shots of the birds in Darwin’s lab, the movie doesn’t delve much into evolutionary theory, nor does it devote enough screen time to Darwin’s own issues with faith in light of his scientific discoveries and family tragedy. Still, Bettany’s sensitive performance and the film’s striking cinematography add up to a noteworthy portrayal of a complex man who grapples with the consequences of his controversial work. The creationism vs. Darwinism debate is still going strong, and Creation offers a worthwhile glimpse at the man behind the world-altering theory.

--Jessi Phillips

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