Given his famous ‘robotic’ American voice, it is easy to forget that renowned physicist Stephen Hawking is actually British, not to mention that amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – the disease that put him in a wheelchair – is the inspiration behind one of the biggest global viral campaigns of this year. Based on the autobiography by his first wife, Jane Wilde Hawking, film fans have a chance to see Hawking’s life before he was confined to the motorised wheelchair.
The Theory of Everything tells the story behind the relationship between physicist Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and linguistics student Jane (Felicity Jones), who met at Cambridge University in the 1960s. As Hawking’s health slowly deteriorates, the relationship and eventual marriage between them is tested.
For those looking for a two-sided perspective to their relationship, fans will not be getting it here. As it is based on Wilde Hawking’ s book, the film explores the side-effects of Hawking’s illness and his phenomenal success on their marriage from Jane’s point of view. Though it is argued that this is the key relationship in Hawking’s life, it would be more balanced to see the effects on their friends, family and children.
Technically, cinematographer Benoît Delhomme shoots the film with a strange sun-kissed look more fitting for California than Cambridge and considering the subject in question, it gives the film a false idea of muted bliss, which doesn’t uplift the film throughout the darker times of Hawking’s illness. Additionally, director James Marsh romanticises the story behind Hawking’s key life chapters, highlighting the importance of Jane rather than his contributions and achievements in the scientific field.
However, the acting leads shine through the drawn-out narrative. Redmayne is astonishing as Hawking, effectively shedding the model-turned-actor label and proving that he can pull off such an iconic individual, capturing the mannerisms and appearance to a tee. In contrast, Jones encapsulates a quiet determination as the dedicated Jane while maintaining a sense of grace and intelligence in her role. Supporting roles from Charlie Cox, Maxine Peake and David Thewlis bring in different emotive aspects to the story, each representing a significant part of Jane and Hawking’s life.
The Theory of Everything side-steps the obvious aspects that shaped Hawking into the man he is today, but Redmayne and Jones deserve the praise in this somewhat biased biopic.
Theory of Everything was released in UK cinemas on 1 January 2015.
Director: James Marsh
Writers: Anthony McCarten (screenplay), Jane Hawking (book)
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Tom Prior |
Runtime: 123 mins