A new British film following the life of evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin called “Creation” has stirred up controversy because producer Jeremy Thomas has not been able to secure a U.S. distributor.

Thomas told The Daily Mail the film has been picked up in every country in the world and he finds it “unbelievable” that the topic remains a “hot potato” in the U.S.

“It’s quite difficult for we in the U.K. to imagine religion in America,” Thomas tells the newspaper. “We live in a country which is no longer so religious. But in the U.S., outside of New York and LA, religion rules,” he said.

The film, directed by Jon Amiel stars Paul Bettany as a young Darwin and Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly as Emma, Darwin’s wife. Bettany and Connelly are married in real life.

“Creation” is the first full-length film about Darwin’s life for the big screen. The movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last week with high praise.

The film highlights Darwin’s struggle to come to terms with the death of his ten-year old daughter Annie and reconciling his beliefs with his devotedly religious wife.

The script is based on a book called “Annie’s Box: Charles Darwin, his Daughter, and Human Evolution,” by Randal Keynes. Keynes is one of Darwin’s great-great-grandsons and the book is part-biography and part-family memoir.

Although the film captures the years leading up to Darwin’s groundbreaking 1859 book “On The Origin of Species” the central aspect of the movie depicts Darwin dealing with the death of Annie. She was Darwin’s adored eldest daughter and after nine months of a mysterious illness she died at age 10.

Darwin and his wife Emma had ten children, of whom seven survived into adulthood. Their third child, Mary, died within a month of birth, and their tenth, Charles Waring, before the age of two.

According to Darwin’s biographer Janet Browne, Annie’s death was the formal beginning of Darwin’s conscious dissociation from believing in the traditional figure of God. The doctrines of the Bible that Emma took comfort in were hurdles he could not jump, she writes.

Darwin feared that Annie’s death was part of a “hereditary weakness,” perhaps made worse because he and Emma were cousins.

The film demonstrates the emotional portrait of a bereaved man and his family. “Creation” explores the differences between Darwin and his wife and more broadly between Darwin and much of Victorian society at the time.

Amiel told the Press Association that both Bettany and Connelly were perfect for the roles.

“When you watch these two courageous and talented actors explore this very intimate marriage in a state of crisis you see something extraordinary on screen,” said Amiel.

It has been 200 years since Darwin’s birth and 150 since the publication of his masterpiece, “On The Origin of Species” known as the most significant study about human evolution and modern science.

Critics say too often Darwin is depicted as a kind of fossil: an old man with a huge beard looking ancient. It’s finally refreshing to see him looking young and handsome and Bettany shows a side of Darwin as a man rather than icon, imbuing him with life and love, gentleness and anxiety, tears and laughter. This is an important film, many say.

 

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