Cinema Release: The Theory of Everything.
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, Simon McBurney, Christian McKay, David Thewlis. Directed by James Marsh
Review by Douglas Kennedy.
Director James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything, which is tipped to be one of the big winners at the Oscars next week (Feb 22), is a bio-pic with a heart.
The story of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, adapted from his former wife Jane Wilde Hawking’s book, Travelling to Infinity: My life with Stephen, charts a 25 year long relationship against a background of the scientific world of Cambridge University.
Hawking, an internationally renowned theoretical physicist, is possibly best known to the general public for his groundbreaking A Brief History of Time (1988) and his diagnosis of motor neuron disease as a young man.
From a distance his story appears sad and, at the same time, inspiring, but up close and personal it has an intensity which really takes your breath away.
That’s due largely to Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Hawking’s decline which has been fairly compared to Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance in My Left Foot.
The Theory of Everything has generally been well received, although a handful of critics have noted the emphasis on his relationship with Jane (Felicity Jones) rather than his towering academic achievements.
That’s understandable as New Zealand-born writer Anthony McCarten’s screenplay is based on his wife’s book and her own struggle to maintain her identity through all the suffering.
Stephen and Jane met in 1963 – at Cambridge – and quickly formed a romantic relationship, but it looked doomed when Hawking was first diagnosed with motor neuron disease.
He initially withdrew from life, as his muscles began to collapse, but Jane’s love and his dedication to his thesis, on the nature of time, gave him the will to survive and grow.
Remarkably, the couple had three children and Stephen himself a busy and fruitful academic career, exploring the nature of black holes and writing books.
The human drama is the film’s main focus as Stephen and Jane experience all the human ups and downs of married life as Stephen slowly loses all his physical facilities, but never his sharp mind.
Eventually, Stephen’s life is almost exclusively within his mind and the strain for Jane, of juggling her own needs, alongside the demands of looking after Stephen, takes its toll.
Jane joins the church choir and develops a platonic relationship with her choir master, Jonathan played by Charlie Cox, and Stephen finds himself drawn to his carer Elaine (Maxine Peake).
The stage is set for some conventional romantic upsets, but director James Marsh and Eddie Redmayne as Stephen never allow the audience to lose sight of the central theme.
The Theory of Everything is powerful and compelling piece of movie making, which has won a swag of awards, and looks set to play a major role at this year’s Oscars with five Award nominations including best picture, best actor (Redmayne) and best actress (Jones).
The film’s supporting cast, including Charlie Cox, Emily Watson and Simon Burney and David Thewlis, are also excellent.