'Creation' premiered in North America at the Toronto Film Festival to rave reviews, then opened in a handful of cities across North America and seems to have sunk out of sight. Several of us petitioned to have it shown more widely, but nothing came of it. The National Center for Science Education tells me this seems to be lack of interest, rather than any particular anti-evolution campaign.
Having now watched the Blu-ray release, my reaction is mixed. It's a superb acting job by all concerned, especially new-comer Martha Grant as Darwin's eldest daughter, Annie, who perfectly portrays the spirit of Charles' and Emma's 'dear child' who died at ten. It's easy to see Paul Bettany as Darwin, in perhaps the first film version to show the invalid Darwin suffering from nausea, shaking palsy, and hypochondria. His spirit of scientific inquiry is caught as he makes notes on the newborn Annie, and later uses the same approach on Jenny the Orang-utan. Jennifer Connelley plays Emma's Darwin perfectly, and a real strength of the film is the use of the real-lie husband/wife team to bring verisimilitude to the marriage.
The film is not (and perhaps does not try to be) an historical account, nor is it a scientific documentary a la Nova. 'Creation' I think refers more to the agonies of Charles Darwin wrestling with the scientific, philosophical, and personal issues inherent in his study of evolution, and specifically the Creation of his book, Origin of Species. The well-known themes are present, but presented with great intimacy: Charles' physical reaction to the suggestion 'You have killed God, Sir!", his delay to publish Origin in consequence of psychosomatic illness, the arrival of Alfred Wallace's letter, and the final flurry of writing. The ghost of his daughter hangs figuratively (and in the movie literally) over this act of Creation. Annie and her father can dispassionately watch a fox catch and kill a rabbit as an act of balance, while her younger sister cries "Not fair!"
Factual and implied errors cause me to deduct one star.
1) Emma was not Catholic: like other Wedgewoods she was Unitarian, but she attended an Anglican church in Down.
2) The Darwins actively supported the community work of Down parish, and got along well with the broad-minded Rev Innes, vicar at Down from 1846-1864, but not with his replacements, the last of whom was a singular twit. Innes would never have behaved as portrayed.
3) The major movie theme of sustained brittle tension between husband and wife over Annie's illness and death is completely contrary to the record. They were a loving, devoted couple throughout this period and indeed throughout their marriage (see the excellent 'Charles and Emma'). They had no divisive religious differences: Emma believed in an Afterlife and told the children Annie was in Heaven. Charles did not. There is no evidence of a sexual dry spell: they had ten children, before and after publication of the Origin.
4) Creationists will delight in several erroneous notions. Huxley was not a horrid diminutive atheist, but a highly respected scientist in his own right who gloried in the title 'Darwin's Bulldog.' Nothing in the record or Darwin's nature suggest he tried to make a Deal with God to save Annie's life. The theory of evolution is not the tortured reaction of a father who has lost faith over the death of a child: it's foundations were laid well before then, Charles had ceased to attend church well before Annie's illness, and her death confirmed his disbelief in a personal God who would permit suffering.
And yet ... I would recommend this film to anyone interested in the process of scientific creativity, the workings of the scientific mind, and the dynamics of the real-life husband/wife team of Bettany and Jennifer Connelly as a key to an understanding of the historical couple.
Supplementary materials include interviews with Lewis Wolpert, world-famed developmental biologist whose take is similar to that of Richard Dawkins; a theistic evolutionist who thinks natural selection is the way God works; and a self-labeled Young Earth Creationist who thinks the outstanding scientific question of the age is how we can see galaxies billions of light years away when we *know* the earth is only 6,000 years old: his conclusion is a variable rates of the speed of light.