‘The Theory of Everything’ is essentially a love story that happens to be about astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. Director James Marsh (Man on Wire) delivers an engaging biopic that is poignant. It’s a beautiful film to watch thanks to French cinematographer Benoit Delhomme (Lawless). It’s a conventional narrative that touches on the scientist’s famous theories of time without weighing down the story. The main reason the film works so well is that the acting is exceptional. Eddie Redmayne is a revelation in the lead role of Hawking and Felicity Jones is equally superb as his wife Jane Wilde. The film is based on the 2008 memoir ‘Travelling to Infinity’ by Jane Hawking. ‘The Theory of Everything’ is definitely a frontrunner for Oscar glory.
Redmayne’s performance is memorable not just for his physical transformation. The way he contorts his face and body is remarkable enough but he makes it even more compelling by the way he conveys Hawking’s personality. When he gets to the point where he can’t speak anymore, he still manages to express the man’s wit, charm and stubbornness. It’s extraordinary to watch him make Hawking appealing and compassionate. The story opens when Hawking and Wilde first meet as Cambridge University students in the early 1960s. It’s before the motor neuron disease (ALS) gradually strikes him down. Their courtship is played out like a 1940s Hollywood movie. When he asks her to accompany him to a ball, it is brilliantly shot in gorgeous colors.
Shortly afterwards, Hawking is diagnosed with the neurological disorder and doctor’s only give him two years to live. When hearing the news, Jane’s love and commitment are unwavering. Her strength and selflessness are amazing. She is determined to fight the odds with him. They marry in 1965 and miraculously have three healthy children together. Surprisingly, the disease never diminishes the couple’s sexual activity. Jones’ performance is smart and compelling. I’ve admired this actress since first seeing her in the indie film ‘Like Crazy’ back in 2011. Finally the world gets to see her range. Educated at Oxford University, Jones is a gifted actress that nimbly shows what her character had to endure in their tumultuous marriage. Jane sets her career goals aside for her husband. When they eventually grow apart from each other, it’s emotionally heartbreaking. The chemistry between Jones and Redmayne is moving and deserving of Oscar nominations.
Now if you’re looking for a film that digs into Hawking’s theories about blackholes and the cosmos, you might want to rent Errol Morris’ 1991 documentary ‘A Brief History of Time.’ ‘The Theory of Everything’ is designed to appeal to a wider audience and not get bogged down with too much science. Marsh captures enough of Hawking’s theories when he is working on his PhD, scribbling equations on a chalkboard and giving a lecture to academia. The film breaks down the cosmos visually in simple terms by showing cream swirling in a coffee mug or the theory of time depicted with beer foam smudged on a table at a college bar. That’s about as scientific as it gets which works extremely well for dramatic purposes. Remember, this story is based on Jane’s memoir and so it focuses on their romance and her loyal support so he was able to attain his world-famous accomplishments.
There are several good supporting performances. The film toys with the fact that Jane and Stephen had romances outside of their marriage. Jane turns for solace to Jonathan Hellyer Jones (a very good Charlie Cox) who she meets at choir practice. Stephen eventually falls for his therapist and nurse Elaine Mason (an alluring Maxine Peake). These relationships are handled tastefully. It actually adds a great deal to the complexity of their relationship. Similar to Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar,’ ‘The Theory of Everything’ is a meditation on life, the vast universe and making the most out of the brief amount of time we all have in the grand scheme of things. It is now playing at The Flicks and an art house theater near you. Check out the official trailer http://youtu.be/6NEtaNmTgwE. Here’s my review of Felicity Jones in the critically acclaimed indie film ‘Like Crazy’ http://zoomdune.com/review/like-crazy-movie-review.