The Theory of Everything – Review
Starring Eddie Redmayne ("Les Misérables") and Felicity Jones ("The Amazing Spider-Man 2"), “The Theory of Everything” tells the story of one of the world's greatest living minds astrophysicist Stephen Hawking through a three layered prism of his intellect and ground breaking work, his marriage and personal life and the devastating illness that he was stricken with an early age in the form of ALS or more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.
Based on the memoir “Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, the films begins in 1963 where we see a young and vibrant Hawking who is driven by the desires for a PH.D at Cambridge and his equally smitten desires for the attention of a beautiful fellow student named Jane Wilde that he met at a reception. But just as it appears young Hawking is to have both a bright and promising future academically as well as personally with his new love Jane he is found one midday unconscious after collapsing face down on the university grounds. It is soon after his doctors’ examination at the age of 21 that he‘s given the horrific diagnosis of his ALS illness with only two years left to live.
Running two hours, we see initially the Hawking marriage as both a parallel downward spiral due to his eroding health as well as an uplifting triumph of the human will through Jane’s determined stalwart support as the emotional driving force to making sure Stephen continues his academic work. She crams as much into Stephen’s remaining two years in the form of having a family as well encouraging him to continuing his life-long professional goal of finding the ultimate mathematical equation that explains where all life comes from and why our universe exist. The film also delves rather directly into the early complexities of his eroding battle with ALS that eventually robbed him of all of his motor skills and its impact on his wife, family and working colleagues. It also showcases ironically his eventual evolution and growth professionally as the world’s most renowned astrophysicist scientist of our time.
What I like first and foremost about “The Theory of Everything” are the performances. Redmayne is assured of getting a nomination for Best Actor as he makes you forget from the onset of the film you are actually watching an actor as he puts himself slowly through the physical contortions that we know the real Hawking is most known for sitting in his wheel chair. And while not letting the contortions becoming a visual distraction or some gimmick, he somehow manages to brilliantly keep the viewer focus on this unique man who has extraordinary layers of humanity in the form of a sharp wit, emotional passion and cutting edge intellect with the use of a sly smile, a discernable frown and impactful tears. Redmayne also does an incredible job in letting you know what he was feeling, what pain he was experiencing and what he was sometimes thinking without ever saying a perceptible or audible word. His performance overall manages to pull off all of these confluences of acting demands while equally portraying a man literally and physically trapped in a body that you see is slowly from scene to scene, more than the last, betraying him to the eventually point of not functioning for him at all.
Felicity Jones is also up to the task and has a good chance for an Oscar nomination as well as she brings a compatible excellent performance to this film as Hawking’s then-wife Jane as she willfully navigates the direction of their marriage. Jones captures exceptionally well the more moving, tender and distressing periods of their 25 year relationship.
While the beginning of the film started out as something a tad hollow and light hearted, it quickly and eventually grew into something much more poignant in the form of genuine inspiration and admiration for this incredibly smart and courageous man. Besides having an extremely bright mind Stephen Hawking is revealed as a man who is deeply and sincerely honest; fully capable of real intimacy and kindness, especially towards those who were supportive and encouraging to him in his life.
In the end “The Theory of Everything” is not the best film I have seen this year but manages nonetheless to work well as promised allowing the viewer to be witness not to a dormant silent Stephen Hawking in a paralyzed body. Instead the film is a pleasant witnessing and visit into a vital inspirational Stephen Hawking who miraculously is now 75 years old.
Hawking who lost his physical life almost a half a century ago without the ability to speak on his own or display any noticeable ability to move or convey feelings is no victim to be pitied or consoled here. He in fact is a man who is heroic, smart, brave and full of life as big as the universe itself.
3 – 3/4 Stars