As much as Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is removed from relationships and lacks simple, general knowledge about human connection—The Imitation Game focuses on the unbreakable bonds that evolve throughout life. Unbreakable bonds that form for even men like Alan, who don’t seem to yearn for partnership and who lock themselves away from any potential attachment. This is by far the best thing about the film: watching Cumberbatch embrace a character extremely removed and painfully lonely.
The only relationship we see the mathematician desire throughout the film is one through flashbacks with a schoolboy who introduces him to code breaking and true friendship. These childhood memories let us see certain parts of Alan that are carried with him to adulthood, and the beginning moments when he realizes his sexual identity. Even though these flashbacks help us understand Alan’s experiences and personality, I have been battling with certain decisions the film made. Should we be shown the romantic relationships Alan might have had in the latter part of his life? Part of me thinks this would be more sincere than how we find out Alan is homosexual by these prude moments during childhood and when the assumption is finally proved as he nonchalantly tells John (Allen Leech) in a crowded bar during his engagement party. I have a hard time feeling the authenticity of this scene since Alan is happily closed off from his enigma team prior to this moment and the fact that these men can turn at any moment and go back to seeing Alan as a rotten outsider. At the same time, if the film focuses on these detailed aspects it could convolute much of Alan’s true character. The focus of his sexual orientation could mask other traits the film is clearly trying to show: his determination, persistence, and the true genius that’s hidden behind his quirks. Focusing on the relationships Alan may have had with other men could lessen the importance of the one between him and Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) as well.
The beauty of this friendship is shown in many scenes in different ways. One of the most essential moments is when Joan stands in front of Alan and does not even flinch when he tells her his secret, but she simply accepts his homosexuality and promises to stand by his side. The most prominent is in the end sequence when Joan arrives at Alan’s home and knows exactly what to say and do to get his spirits up again. The shot/reference shot editing here allows the camera to focus completely on Joan’s expressions and the true concern she feels for her friend, no matter how much he has let her down in the past. And the most unique aspect about their relationship besides these sincere moments—possibly one of the reasons they connect in the first place—is the their place in society. Both are minorities during the time period of the film: Alan a gay man and Joan an intelligent workingwoman. Although we know from the start a romance between the two is unfathomable, we see a magnetic force that brings about an entire different partnership.
The film does a nice job revealing these similarities, but I still want to see more. Another close-up shot of Joan’s reaction when Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong) compliments Alan shows us how bemused she is that Menzies refuses to acknowledge her achievements. However, I want to see Joan’s frustration other than the brief moments we get of her twisted facial expressions. The same goes for Alan. When he is interrogated about his homosexuality and goes deep into the psychoanalysis of judgment to the police officer, I wonder where these reflections were earlier. Instead, the internal frustration within the characters is either saved for the end or not shown enough. The film has a chance to reveal so much about certain people’s place in the world. It has a chance to take a risk—one that the industry desperately needs—but unfortunately it lingers in the safe zone.