The Theory of Everything

Jan 29, 2015

Knowing beforehand that The Theory of Everything is a film about Stephen Hawking, the famous English physicist with motor neurone disease, raises some potentially invidious questions.

Will the movie give us a new perspective on profound physical disability, as with My Left Foot? Or maybe a treatise on the possible necessity of a particular illness, as we saw with schizophrenia in A Beautiful Mind? Or maybe something like Dustin Hoffman’s near-comedic rendition of a rare intellectual disorder in Rain Main?

The truth is that The Theory of Everything strives for none of those dramatic outcomes. It’s essentially a story of how the love between Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife, Jane (Felicity Jones), overcomes his near-total immobility.

The film is based on Jane Wilde Hawking’s memoir of her life with Stephen.  The camera adores Felicity Jones’ portrayal of Jane as an intelligent, ardent woman who abandons her PhD to devote herself to her quirky, brilliant young boyfriend when he is given two years to live.

Hawking was also a PhD student when diagnosed with MND and the scenes shot around Cambridge as the couple fall in love are captivating. Many years later, Jane’s somewhat clautrophobic commitment to Stephen gets oxygen when she meets Jonathan, a handsome young widower played by Charlie Cox.

Throughout, Benoît Delhomme’s cinematography brings a lustrous, even Gatsby-like wonder to the scenes. Delhomme and director James Marsh have done well to evoke character through both movement and – particularly in Hawking’s case – comparative stillness.

Redmayne’s portrayal of Stephen Hawking is astonishing. With the aid of subtle prosthetics, the handsome young man’s mobile face seamlessly melds into the slack Hawking visage we know. Yet in close-up, Redmayne conveys myriad emotions.

In the end, I was left none the wiser about how Hawking has lived more than 50 years more than initially expected, nor how his academic career progressed. Nor did I get much of a lesson in theoretical physics.

Which is probably all for the best, since The Theory of Everything succeeds entirely on its own terms, which is to be a charming bio-pic told from an unusual perspective. Thanks to Benoît Delhomme, it’s well worth seeing on the big screen.


Local News Matters
Copyright © 2024 InDaily.
All rights reserved.