"An incredible figure so often confined, yet upon its conclusion, The Theory of Everything deserves to stand out. It’s a terrific biopic that will simultaneously draw tears and inspiration from its respective audiences."
A remarkable mind. A sheer marvel within the scientific spectrum. A brief history of Stephen Hawking’s time on this Earth would never fully justify the significance of the man (and the strides he’s made) within a challenging field he has so dearly appreciated. It’s perhaps fitting then that director James Marsh (Man On Wire/Pacific Rim) uses Jane Wilde Hawking’s affectionate memoir, Travelling To Infinity: My Life With Stephen, as the basis to explore the beauty behind the brains and to poignantly depict the ‘beast’ Stephen has fought so valiantly with.
Cambridge University in the Swinging Sixties: a prestigious educational attraction for the bright to shine. The slight frame and shy sensibilities of Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) at age 21 is our first impression, but despite his aspirations, he doesn’t quite possess the drive to succeed under the watchful, intelligible eye of David Thewlis’ physicist Dennis Sciama.
Instead, it’s a romantic attraction that initially brings out the best in Stephen, by means of the charming, well-to-do Jane Wilde, played by Felicity Jones (Like Crazy). Impressed by his knowledge rather than his dancing ability, nothing can prepare the couple for the intense battle they burden on their young shoulders. Stephen’s life goals are cruelly threatened when he’s given a mere two years to live after being diagnosed with motor-neurone disease, a condition affecting the cells that control voluntary muscle activity. However, the deterioration of his own body function only seems to fuel the audacious work he is now highly regarded for.
Its inevitable component of science is played safe yet sound. Considering its chosen subject matter, The Theory of Everything’s focus is predominantly on its dissection of a marriage under exceptional strain, gradually subverting the early, wondrous quality of Stephen and Jane’s relationship captured through Marsh’s delicate direction and Benoit Delhomme’s cinematography.
With its trajectory conventional, as so often is the case with biopics, the film does sporadically slip into drab, run-of-the-mill TV movie territory as it awaits the next crucial narrative obstacle: its aesthetic (colourful, well-intentioned Super 8 home videos) redundantly, albeit occasionally, over-compensates.
Regardless of its minor flaws, it’s the stellar performances that elevate this beyond typical trappings. The physical transformation of Eddie Redmayne is simply astounding; the commitment to portray Hawking bears a resilient wit and sheer force of will that is heartbreaking to witness unfold. Brilliantly breaking down the female stereotype of such fare, Felicity Jones instils a steely determination and sympathetic complexity to her portrayal of Jane Wilde, gradually growing in stature as the film progresses.
An incredible figure so often confined, yet upon its conclusion, The Theory of Everything deserves to stand out. It’s a terrific biopic that will simultaneously draw tears and inspiration from its respective audiences.