Dir: James Marsh
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, David Thewlis, Harry Lloyd, Charlie Cox, and Emily Watson
British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is a remarkable man. The notable scientist, whose best selling book “A Brief History of Time”, has been a highly regarded work of complex theories. Director James Marsh examines the man, the husband, and the scientist in “The Theory of Everything”; perhaps more truthfully titled “The Theory of Love” for the films pointed emphasis on the shifting relationship between Hawking and his wife Jane. Marsh directs wonderful performances from the lead cast and navigates the film with zeal; unfortunately the film misses the opportunity to explore other exceptional avenues of the multifaceted genius.
Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is a brilliant young mind at Cambridge. A little capricious with friends and somewhat bored by his studies, Hawking meets a literature major named Jane (Felicity Jones) and they fall in love. Hawking, after a serious fall, is diagnosed with a motor neuron disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. With only an assumed few years to live, Hawking completes his doctorate, gets married, and continues the advancement of his thesis. His disease continues to progress, rendering him to a wheelchair. Jane is patiently supportive; caring for him while his disease gets worse. There relationship begins to suffer as Hawking’s fame continues to grow for his advances in scientific theory.
Marsh tries very hard to elevate the material beyond the sappy melodramatic trappings of a made for television movie and, to a large extent, the film succeeds. However, there are moments where the narrative tumbles into the trappings, mostly within the transitional devices utilized to display the Hawking’s marital strains. The film is based on the memoir “Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen” by Jane Hawking. Her personal account is reflected within the film. While Hawking’s rise to academic renown and theoretical discovery is a focus at the beginning, it is left as a second thought thereafter. Marsh introduces some interesting narrative subjects, like the unexpected pressures of fame, the resilience and patience of love, and the life changes that challenge a relationship. These elements are introduced predictably but also effectively, complimented by some noteworthy performances.
Eddie Redmayne is phenomenal as Hawking. The performance is physical and emotional, one that transitions throughout the entirety of the film and displays Redmayne’s range as an actor. Redmayne, starting with an effected gait, to assistive instruments, and moving into the use of an electric wheelchair, impressively portrays the progression of the disease. It is certainly one of the most notable performances of the year. Not to be outshined, Felicity Jones is tender, confident, and commanding as the devoted though overwhelmed wife. Some of her best scenes have no dialogue at all, simply a glance or gesture that evokes all the emotion her character is feeling in that moment.
Those looking for a more comprehensive film about Stephen Hawking and his scientific ideologies should look at Errol Morris’ 1991 documentary “A Brief History of Time”. “The Theory of Everything” is a straightforward story about a changing relationship, albeit a relationship with one of the greatest minds of our age. Accompanied by wonderful performances and a well-intentioned narrative, this is a film about a family trying to live an ordinary life under the influence of extraordinary circumstances.
3.50 out of 5.00