Look at that. "Not applicable" for the US certification. Not "tbc" or "we'll tell you in good time" but "not applicable". Why? Because the leading industrial nation on the planet won't get to see this film. Why? Because it's about Charles Darwin and the Theory of Evolution and that, as any fule (and hick, war-mongering former President) kno, is a complete work of fiction.
Fossils? They're a test. The Earth began a few thousand years ago, the Grand Canyon was created by the Great Flood and, according to the hilarious Creation Museum in Kentucky, farmers used to use small dinosaurs as beasts of burden. And because of logic like that, the United States will not get to see this intelligent, sensitive and poignant drama.
Based on the book Annie’s Box (written by Charles Darwin’s great-great-grandson, Randal Keynes), the story takes place in the period just before publication of On The Origin of Species. Assuming some knowledge and intelligence on behalf of the audience (ah, so THAT'S why it won't be screened in Kentucky), the film deals with the impact Darwin’s theory will have more than the theory itself, particularly on how it will affect his already troubled domestic life.
The death of his beloved daughter Annie (played with considerable spark by newcomer West) has left Darwin (Bettany) hollow and distanced from his remaining three children and his beloved wife Emma (Connelly). While his faith has been shattered, Emma’s remains resolute, and now here stands her husband, "armed" with a world-changing theory that apparently disproves the tenets of her religion. With the rift between church and science ever widening, Darwin’s peers are eager for him to publish: “you’ve killed God” is how fellow scientist Thomas Huxley (Jones) gleefully describes it. Darwin however is reticent. While his theory seems irrefutable – and maddeningly he sees proof everywhere – Darwin is also aware that to publish will be to remove Emma’s main source of comfort.
This angle, the domestic and social impact rather than the purely scientific, is a fascinating way to approach the story and, for the most part, it’s highly successful. If the presence of Annie’s ghost means the film occasionally borders on the mawkish, or as the metaphoric stories Darwin tells his late daughter veer perilously close to the glaringly obvious, the quality of the performances more than compensate. Bettany is simply excellent, and the casting of his own wife Connelly as Emma gives their relationship an obvious and intense intimacy, and a sense of realism that's very hard to fake. It may be cinematic trickery of sorts but, as emotional shortcuts go, it's undoubtedly effective and gives this highly impressive, thought-provoking film its deep, powerful heart. Very good indeed - and America's loss.