Movie Review: The Theory of Everything

Stephen Hawking is one of the greatest minds in human history, renowned for bold theories and innovative concepts on time, space and life itself.

There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope. – Stephen Hawking

The Theory of Everything focuses less on the theories and science that has earned Hawking the reputation as one of the most brilliant minds in human history, but rather focuses on the relationship between the famous physicist and his wife Jane. The film is based on the memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, by Jane Hawking.

Hawking’s story is inspiring – the way he’s battled motor neuron disease (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) for  over the past 50 years, and defied the odds not only to survive, but to thrive. His long-fought battle has not impeded his resolve and ingenuity – his disability does not define his ability.

Where Hawking’s theories are brash and bold, the Theory of Everything is safe and unpretentious. The film is beautifully shot, with commanding performances woven in a somewhat conventional telling of an unconventional marriage.

James Marsh directs with a sense of responsibility. There’s little room for blame or he-said-she-said politics in this film that not only honors the struggles of its subject matter, but celebrates their lives together.  The script simplifies Hawking’s theories and skims over marital infidelity and divorce – It seems a little “Hallmark” at moments, but it is a solid and beautifully crafted film overall.

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Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score is as beautiful and precise as a mathematical formula. It’s fitting of the utterly captivating cinematography from Benoît Delhomme. Light and filtered effects give the film its feel of nostalgia or a time stamp of its representative eras. The lighting and filming style adjusts to set the tone of the scene. The opening of the film, with dingy little dormitories, budding romance and dazzling fireworks displays is soft-lit and dream-like, whereas the clinical parts of Hawking’s disease, including his diagnosis are amplified by the cold and sterile aesthetic of the frame.

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The cast lifts what is a polished and rather safe film, to an awards contender with characters and performances that are wondrously transformative. Eddie Redmayne is receiving well-earned accolades for a truly stunning accomplishment.  His performance is natural and frustratingly real in its depiction of a debilitating disease and the toll that it takes on Hawking’s body and motor skills. He gives us the man beyond his theories – brilliant, witty and fiercely engaging. As Hawking’s body slows down, his mind races on. Redmayne is intensely talented – he lives and breathes this extremely demanding role – taking on the physical and emotional demands, contorting his body and sacrificing his voice, with an exceptional grace. He’s a contender for awards season.

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Felicity Jones takes on the role of Jane Hawking with passion and perseverance. While the role could have been overshadowed by the towering performance that Redmayne gives, Jones matches him – which is no small feat for the less showy role in the film. Jane’s dedication to loving and caring for Stephen is as lovely as it is frustrating.  Jones’ role is nuanced and elegant, and extremely worth of awards season notice. Together, Jones and Redmayne are strong and charming – they depict a realistic relationship, full of mutual respect and affection.

Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones in Stephen Hawking biopic Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything is Oscar bait at its finest – outstanding performances raise a rather ordinary telling of an extraordinary life, into a triumphant and emotional film.

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