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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Now a review of a movie that's actually in movie theaters now. "Creation" opens today in some cities. It's a drama about Charles Darwin. Darwin is played by Paul Bettany, perhaps best known for his role in "A Beautiful Mind."

As our critic Bob Mondello explains, "Creation" is a movie about Darwin's struggle with religion, and it's a movie that struggled in the U.S. to find a distributor.

BOB MONDELLO: A movie about the evolution of the theory of evolution and one that hopes to find an audience in the U.S. If "Creation" had been made in Hollywood, there'd be much tip-toeing around the subject of religion, but it's from Britain, and it makes the science-faith debate central right from the start, when Charles Darwin explains to his 10-year-old daughter Annie why he's been stalling for years on his treatise "On the Origin of Species."

(Soundbite of film, "Creation")

(Soundbite of music)

Ms.�MARTHA WEST (Actor): (As Annie Darwin) What are you so scared of?

Mr.�PAUL BETTANY (Actor): (As Charles Darwin) Suppose the whole world stopped believing that God had any sort of plan for us, nothing mattered: not love, trust, faith or honor, only brute survival. Apart from anything else, it would break your mother's heart.

MONDELLO: And therein lies the film. Deeply religious Emma Darwin is hardly anti-science. She kind of gets a kick out of her husband's habit of writing every gurgle down as their 10 children go through infancy. But she's also concerned about his soul and where his research may be taking him.

(Soundbite of film, "Creation")

Ms.�JENNIFER CONNELLY (Actor): (As Emma Darwin) Charles, do you not care that you may never pass through the gates of heaven and that you and I may be separated for all eternity?

Mr.�BETTANY: (As Charles) Well, of course I care, of course I do. What do you think has kept me in limbo all these years? I'm a scientist, and I dare not study for the fear of seeing more clearly what is already as plain as day to me.

MONDELLO: Faith versus�science, neatly wrapped up as a Darwinian domestic dispute. Director Jon Amiel, working from a book by Darwin's great-great grandson, animates this idea with sharp performances by real-life spouses Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly, and also with arresting visuals, as the biologist bonds with a captive orangutan and as he and his daughter are subjected to the ghastly medical quackery of hydrotherapy.

Purists might argue about some Victorian spirit-world story elements involving Annie, but if the film takes some liberties, they generally make sense dramatically: picturing Darwin's voyages not when they happened, for instance, but when he tells his kids bedtime stories about them, or using time-lapse photography to illustrate scientific leaps he's on the verge of making.

In fact, given its subject matter, "Creation" arguably should be bolder and more shocking if it wants to survive among the fittest at the multiplex. Audiences may not regard a straightforward biopic as a natural selection.

But "Creation" has ample grace on its side. And as many have noted, if you're not at least a little shocked by the audacity of what Darwin did, chances are you don't understand it. I'm Bob Mondello.

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