If you’re looking for a film about Stephen Hawking’s career, then “The Theory of Everything” is not the biopic you want. Rather, this movie directed by James Marsh and based on the autobiography by Jane Wilde is about Stephen’s marriage with Jane. It’s typical biopic fare that is elevated to a more extraordinary status due to the incredible performances turned in by its two leads.
The film opens in 1963. Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is a brilliant physicist student at Cambridge University working on developing his black hole theory when he meets language student Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones). The two begin to fall in love when Stephen is diagnosed with ALS, a disease that impairs the muscles. Despite being given only two years to live, Jane insists that she wants to be with him as long as possible, and the two are married. But Stephen surpasses that life expectancy, and while his physical condition deteriorates, the strain put on Jane increases.
Redmayne and Jones deliver some of the best performances of the year. None of the film’s supporting players seem relevant in comparison to them. Redmayne’s performance is large astonishing due to the intense physical transformation he undergoes to play the part of Hawking over an extended period of time. Just the way that the holds his hands and his twisted walk show an intense level of dedication to the role. Beyond that, he embodies Hawking in a way that even the man himself claims is largely genuine. His subtle facial expressions to convey his moods, his frustration at his condition, and his optimism even when all else fails is clearly portrayed. But Jones gives possibly an even stronger performance as Jane. Her strength, dedication, and compassion are unparalleled. This film is more about Jane than Stephen, and she handily carries the weight of the film.
There are some wonderful moments in “The Theory of Everything” that depict the evolution of Stephen and Jane’s relationship, from the intense love they feel for each other at the beginning to the sadness toward the end that that love has worn out. While this movie is primarily about their relationship, it does feel oddly lacking in other areas. Stephen’s career is barely focused on at all outside of the first part of the film. His theory made him world famous and a living legend, but that is hardly apparent from the movie at all. At one point a character mentions in passing that Stephen is world famous, but that’s about the only indication the viewer is given on the impact his work has had. There is a wonderful speech Stephen gives at the end of the film to a room full of colleagues and admirers, but the middle of the film only concentrates on his disease.
“The Theory of Everything” starts out great, but wavers a bit later on, as if it’s afraid of portraying its leads in an overly negative light. Still, it is a nice film, memorable if only for the stunning performances given by Redmayne and Jones. Just know that if you’re looking to find out more about Hawking’s work, you should probably turn to his books instead.
Runtime: 123 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and suggestive material.
Check out showtimes for this movie and more at the following St. Louis-area theaters:
- Wehrenberg Theatres
- AMC Theatres
- Regal Movie Theatres
- Galleria 6
- Chase Park Plaza
- Moolah Theatre
- Hi-Pointe Theatre
- St. Andrews Cinema
- Plaza Frontenac Cinema
- Tivoli Theatre
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