Review: The Theory of Everything

The sound of a thud. The sound of a thud is the inciting incident that spurs the film, The Theory of Everything directed by Academy Award winner James Marsh, adapted from Jane Hawking’s novel by Anthony McCarten.

Eddie Redmayne is Stephen Hawking, who is running across the Cambridge campus in 1963, when he stumbles hits his head hard against the ground, lying motionless for a few short minutes before being escorted to the infirmary by a few classmates. He is then diagnosed with motor neuron disease and given a life expectancy of two years.

Motor neuron disease (MND) are a small group of neurological disorders that selectively affect motor neurons, the cells that control voluntary muscle activity including speaking, walking, swallowing, and general movement of the body. They are generally progressive in nature, and cause increasing disability and, eventually, death.

After he is diagnosed, Stephen’s girlfriend Jane, played by Felicity Jones, makes the choice to stand by her man even though he is given a death sentence. The two marry and have children, while Stephen continues to achieve his doctorate in cosmology, which will be the foundation of his incredible achievements in the field of physics.

Eddie Redmayne (left) and Felicity Jones (right) are the Hawking’s in The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything is a cinematic memoir of the lives of Stephen and Jane Hawking. It goes over the triumphs, trials, tribulations of the challenges the both of them had to face while Stephen’s condition continually declined over the years and Stephen’s achievements gave him worldwide acclaim and prestige.

Particularly, this movie is a chance for audiences to Redmayne and Jones shine courtesy of McCarten’s screenplay, which took him a decade to craft. In all, I found it rather endearing to watch because of Redmayne, who I feel plays on the sympathies of audiences as he immerses himself into his portrayal of Stephen Hawking.

Watching his hand gestures, his walking style, his eyes and listening to his speech habits as his character continues to succumb to his illness is rather touching to see. One can speculate that he is reminiscent of many Oscar winning acting performances such as Colin Firth in The King’s Speech, Jean DuJardin in The Artist, Sean Penn in Milk; Eddie Redmayne gives a truly sincere portrayal of Stephen Hawking.

McCarten’s screenplay is beautifully brought to life by the cinematography of Benoît Delhomme. The scene where Stephen and Jane attend the party, where the bow-ties and the gloves are glowing because of the Tide laundry detergent powder exposed to fluorescent light and the fireworks, and the crane shot of the couple dancing on the bridge is so elegantly well-done and contributes to the overall visual aesthetic of the feature.

The film’s approach to Jane is rather curious to behold. Where other movies would have potentially vilified Jane, Carten’s screenplay makes her seem rather human as she juggles her life raising her children and caring for Stephen while fostering romantic feelings for her choir director Jonathan Jones, played by Charlie Cox; Felicity Jones portrays this person so well that is is clear to interpret how overwhelmed she is by the situation and there is a fragility to her interpretation of Jane Hawking that makes her performance believable.

The Theory of Everything is perhaps the most inspiring British film I’ve seen since The King’s Speech because perhaps both films share so many parallels in terms of visual and thematic design. James Marsh should be proud of this picture because it begins in such an earnest manner and ends so cleanly as if McCarten and Jane Hawking wanted it that way. That is to say that there are no negative feelings towards anyone and I find that quality of the picture so rare, that it is truly a commendable achievement in of itself.

Audiences who don’t really have a clear understanding as to who Steven Hawking was, will gain a great sense of admiration and appreciation for who he was and what he accomplished as a physicist and an author as well as who the people in his life were and how they helped him along throughout his incredible life.

The rest of the supporting cast including Harry Lloyd, Alice Orr-Ewing, David Thewlis (who seems to be channeling Professor Lupin from the Harry Potter series), Simon McBurney, Christian McKay, Maxine Peake are basically reduced to props; they are in and out of the picture so incrementally that during the course of the action, the audience barely remembers that they are even in the picture at all.

The Theory of Everything is justifiably one of the year’s most pleasing pictures on account of the acting and the writing especially. It was a very beautifully well-done motion picture.

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