Instead, what we get is a pedestrian period drama, an overly long “I see dead people” flick where Darwin, tormented by the death of his daughter, is impotent to continue with his great project.
The film tries to build up tension with wholly artificial moments of narrative doubt (Will he be able write the book? Will his devout wife support him or destroy the manuscript?). One spends the entire film simply waiting for Darwin to get out of his funk and get to work already.
Showing a side of him rarely shown (a devotion to ridiculous homeopathic procedures), the film in many ways actually deflates the man, making him seem even less than the legend. This is the boring middle bit of Darwin’s life, after the adventures on the Beagle, and before the impact of his work was truly felt. Hardly a gripping narrative, despite the valiant attempt by all at crafting something of interest.