Film Review – The Theory of Everything
The Theory of Everything
The Theory of Everything depicts the relationship between renowned physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his first wife, Jane Hawking (Felicity Jones). It is based on a book by Jane Hawking entitled Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen.
Contrary to what you might perceive a Stephen Hawking film to be like, this is not a biographical film about Stephen. He is half the story, as it tells the meeting of two people who fall in love and marry despite huge obstacles. The film starts off in 1963 when Stephen is a grad student at Cambridge. He meets Jane at a party and their relationship grows from there. It is all put to a grinding halt when Stephen falls badly and is diagnosed with motor neuron disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Stephen thinks his world is over considering the diagnosis and the fact that he is given only two years to live. Jane is a strong woman and pushes Stephen to continue with his life and they eventually marry and have children. Stephen’s body continues to deteriorate as he becomes a more renowned physicist. Stephen and Jane’s relationship changes as his body does. The story is wholly one of perseverance and difficult choices.
Stephen Hawking is popular, even thriving in pop culture. While I make no qualms about understanding Stephen’s theories, it is certainly eye-opening to see his rise to fame coupled with the deterioration of his body. His life was about as normal as anyone with this disease could be. While he certainly seemed like an independent-minded person, it is his wife that made his life possible. It is nice to see that the film did not focus solely on Stephen, but Jane and Stephen equally. Their life was tough to put it mildly.
One cannot see this film and not be blown away by the transformation of Eddie Redmayne into Stephen Hawking. Even in the beginning as Stephen in grad school, he carries awkwardness and subtlety shows signs of his undiagnosed disease. After diagnosis, the way he is forced to walk to show the disease affecting him made my weak ankles cringe. His progression from slurred speech and compromised mobility into a wheelchair with no speech capabilities is truly remarkable. Redmayne became Stephen Hawking with his neck slumped to the side and his mouth askew. With a computer talking for him, he is still so much Stephen in the way he held his body in the chair and the look upon his face. It is one of those times when I would love to see a long behind the scenes look at how he accomplished all the physicality for the role. Surely, it was not easy.
The other half of the film is focused on Jane Hawking. Felicity Jones transforms herself as well, from a young woman full of hope and promise. She is determined to marry and love Stephen despite of his medical condition. However, she did not know what she was in for. Love may conquer all, but sometimes it is not enough. Jones took herself from a young, vibrant woman to one that has become caregiver and plays second fiddle to her husband. She is still beautiful, just beaten down by the circumstances of her husband’s life.
The Theory of Everything is a compelling film. There is no way to avoid that some people will be disappointed in the film’s scope. This is not about Stephen Hawking’s theories and how he developed them. The Theory of Everything is more focused on the relationship between a brilliant, disabled man and the smart, strong, caring woman standing beside him. Eddie Redmayne did not have to get sickly skinny for his role like those award winners last year, but he deserves every single acting award and nomination coming to him. He is an actor that has not gotten his due for all of his great roles over the years, and it is time that people take notice.