Like many others, including director James Marsh, when I first heard about ‘The Theory Of Everything’, I assumed it was to be a biopic of the brilliant Stephen Hawking. This is only half-true, whilst the film does centre around the life of one of the most celebrated and talented men of the modern era, it is more concerned with the struggles of his ex-wife Jane in living with and caring for her debilitated husband. Based on Jane’s memoirs, expect to see plenty of heartbreaking scenes and poignant moments from her perspective, rather than any kind of salutation to Doctor Hawking’s incredible work and scientific triumphs.
‘The Theory Of Everything’ covers a vast period of time, telling the story of the life of Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) from his studies at Cambridge University in the 1960s, to today being a man of unquestionable genius, a man whose amazing theories defined everything we understand of the world and the universe around us. Stephen’s brilliant mind was consigned to redundancy, when at the age of 21, he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and given just two years to live. With the love and support of his wife Jane (Felicity Jones) however, Stephen defies his death sentence and manages to overcome the loss of his movement and speech, maintaining a 25 year marriage and raising a family. Eventually the pressures of Stephen’s physical degeneration take their toll on Jane and the relationship, exacerbated further by the tension of outside help from choirmaster Jonathan (Charlie Cox) and professional carer Elaine (Maxine Peake), leading to their rather amicable divorce. The illustrious career of Stephen Hawking is admittedly skimmed over, but this just makes way for the touching, emotional private life to shine through.
Eddie Redmayne is rightfully touted as the favourite to win the Oscar for Best Actor for his depiction of the eminent Doctor Hawking, in a performance which is compelling and unerring from start to finish. The way he resembled Hawking in appearance was uncanny, but the real triumph was the manner in which Redmayne immersed himself into the role and portrayed the struggles of motor neurone disease so authentically. The gripping and powerful tone of the film certainly owes much to the emotive, near-perfect display from the talented Mr. Redmayne. Jane Hawking is an unusual support character in what is ultimately her own story, but Felicity Jones more than holds her own, conveying with great aplomb, the immense strain her character endures.
As I mentioned before, even director James Marsh was uncertain as to the origins of the project initially, claiming “when I was sent the script, I was assuming it was a biography of Stephen Hawking, and I thought I was the wrong person to do it”. Thankfully, he did make the film and I have to congratulate Marsh on crafting such a beautifully shot, rather magical experience. The use of slow motion and reverse action is superb, but is nothing compared to the application of colour and sound in places, which embellishes an already striking spectacle. The poignant and tragic tone of the film is encapsulated expertly by the cinematic techniques, just as perfectly as the more uplifting, positive moments are presented. In terms of the chances of ‘The Theory Of Everything’ winning the Best Picture award at the Oscars 2015, I will stick my neck on the line and suggest that is very unlikely, but the film absolutely deserves the praise and recognition it has widely received thus far.
Personally, I would have liked there to have been more emphasis on the professional success of Stephen Hawking, to give the film a more awe-inspiring edge. But of course that is not the story they set out to make with ‘The Theory Of Everything’. What we have instead, is an incredibly intense and intrusive insight into the more delicate moments of the Hawking family’s private life, a film one should treasure. I expected to be blown away by the amazing achievements of Doctor Hawking, and without detracting from his unquestionable brilliance, I was equally as impressed with the powerful and emotive on-screen imagining of his story. James Marsh should echo the sentiment of Hawking himself, and proudly say: “look what we made”.
DIRECTOR: JAMES MARSH
STARRING: EDDIE REDMAYNE, FELICITY JONES