A brilliant glorious film written with sensitivity and intelligence by Anthony McCarten, based on the book by Jane Hawking, ‘Travelling to Infinity – My life with Stephen’. The movie is skillfully guided and directed by James Marsh. This is indeed classic filmmaking by people who know from gimmicks, sentimentality and excess. Every actor gives their best, and Eddie Redmayne delivers an oscar worthy performance as physicist Stephen Hawking.
The story of one of our greatest mathematicians and cosmologists is, in itself, entirely gripping whether we know beforehand what afflicted him or not. Hawking’s resilience and humor shine like a beacon in the swamp of disability and Redmayne’s acting in this regard, is effortless. Where did they find this guy? He even has Stephen’s full lipped smile, the shy shrug, active mind.
Marsh’ direction is intuitive; he respects our intelligence, letting this incredible story unfold about a genius man with his theories of the universe, its origins, and time itself. Hawking still lives after his diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a neurodegenerative disease, that renders all your muscles, balance and swallowing useless. Hawking was informed of his condition, ALS way back in 1965. Most patients die within a few years, there are so many complications that go along with it.
‘Theory’ is also a love story, with a remarkable strong woman Jane Wilde Hawking who recognized Stephen’s genius when they met, and never wavered. Her role is played to perfection by Felicity Jones with both edge and tenderness. The couple had three babies and, needless to say, a difficult struggle, amid his studies, lectures, and not knowing what lay ahead with his ALS. Attentive to angelic standards, Jane defended him with her family and his, and fiercely refused to give up on him after the initial diagnosis. She bought him his first wheelchair and also brought in a speech therapist. In fact after Stephan got pneumonia, she insisted he be kept on life support through all the associated procedures; he credits his wife for saving his life.
After Stephen wrote his seminal book, ‘A Brief History of Time’, a huge painstaking achievement, he himself saw Jane’s longing and needs and released her to their long time friend and helper Jonathan after he sensed the love growing between them. A mighty sacrifice by an understanding husband. He himself later married one of his many therapists.
‘The Theory of Everything’ has nearly everything of what you want in a good film: complex characters to root for, a solid love story, a growing urgency, a backdrop of time-space with black holes and stars, and the concept/question of, when did the universe start. It’s all woven into classical film making magnificence.
See this film, -you’ll thank me later. *****