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Review: ‘Chasing Einstein’ documentary dives into scientists’ pursuit of big brain ideas

Dr. James Beacham, ‘Chasing Einstein’
Dr. James Beacham in the documentary “Chasing Einstein.”
(Atlas Distribution Company)

What if, for the last 100 years, scientists have been looking for something that doesn’t exist? Then again, what if it does — and they’ve just been unable to find it? Such is the conundrum at the heart of the brainy, niche, often arcane documentary “Chasing Einstein,” which profiles a group of esteemed scientists attempting to prove — or disprove — Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity: that the universe is made up of a mysterious, unseen substance dubbed “dark matter.”

Directors Steve Brown and Timothy Wheeler (Wheeler also shot the good-looking film), along with writer-editor Eric Myerson, smartly approach the potentially dry material by mainly focusing on the human element of those researching dark matter or, in some cases, a new theory of gravity.

The personal and professional sacrifices and commitments such physicists as Elena Aprile, James Beacham and twins Erik and Herman Verlinde have made in their unrequited hunts for definitive answers are effectively captured as cameras follow them across the globe to workplaces and experiment sites. Dutch astronomer Margot Brouwer and pensive, science-minded tech entrepreneur Cree Edwards also receive valuable screen time.

In addition to visits to Switzerland’s vast European Organization for Nuclear Research center and the 2017 Nobel Prize award ceremonies in Sweden, “Chasing” most memorably captures several of our researchers as they observe a stunning solar eclipse.

'Chasing Einstein'
Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 21 minutes

Playing: Starts Sept. 27, Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena
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