The Theory of Everything – Movie Review by Frances Winston
Drected by: James Marsh
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Maxine Peake, Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, Simon McBurney, David Thewlis
In cinemas January 1st
I have to admit that when Eddie Redmayne burst on to the scene with his role in My Week With Marilyn I dismissed him as just another pretty, pillow lipped actor – competent enough but nothing special. However after seeing his performance in this film I have changed my opinion completely. To say his performance here is stunning is an understatement.
He plays none other than acclaimed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking in this flick which charts the scientist’s relationship with his first wife Jane (Jones) whom he met while studying at Cambridge. While their relationship starts conventionally enough – boy meets girl at a party – Stephen’s devastating Motor Neurone diagnosis forces them to look to the future far quicker than most young couples might. When he is given just four years to live the pair marry and have a baby but Stephen defies doctors and obviously outlives his original prognosis. Although his body deteriorates his mind continues to flourish as he makes astonishing discoveries that elevate his status within the scientific community. Behind the scenes though Jane struggles to look after her ever more physically helpless husband and young children while lamenting the loss of her own dreams and the daily drudgery of her life.
Hawking’s life has been widely documented but we rarely get to see behind the scientific exterior which makes this fascinating. While we are used to seeing him making fun of himself in shows such as The Big Bang Theory or The Simpsons we rarely get a glimpse into his struggle with his illness or a sense of how difficult his life must be on a day to day basis all of which is conveyed here.
Redmayne is mesmerising as Hawking and even as he deteriorates and becomes immobile and mute you can still sense his mischievousness behind his trademark glasses. He captures Hawking’s physicality perfectly which is no mean feat and you really believe that he is Hawking. If he doesn’t win a slew of awards for this performance there is no justice. Jones however doesn’t seem to fully embody the role of the long suffering Jane. She is great as the younger woman but as she ages she seems stuck playing her in her 20s and while she gives a good performance on the whole it is somewhat jarring to see Redmayne “aging” while she still appears giggly and girly. The rest of the supporting cast which includes the always wonderful Maxine Peake and David Thewlis do a great job in their roles but they are very much playing support to Redmayne whose performance overshadows everything else on the screen.
While the story is indeed fascinating and a real human story they couldn’t tell this tale without the science. Unfortunately, unless you are into theoretical physics some of the scenes where Hawking is making his discoveries are extremely boring. Personally all I know about black holes I learnt from sci-fi movies and sitting through Hawkings discussions about them with his peers isn’t really stimulating viewing. It is a big part of his life but for me these were the points where the film dragged and I wanted to know more about the man and not the theories.
That aside this is a wonderful piece of work. It is well scripted and edited. The soundtrack compliments it perfectly and it is well paced. A fascinating insight into a true enigma you will never look at Hawking the same way again.
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