Carefully directed and sensitively handled, The Theory Of Everything is the story of Professor Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane Wilde. Charting their romance, the film positions the audience with both as we are allowed a close look into their marriage, and more specifically, Stephen’s diagnosis and following years with Motor Neurone Disease.
Directed by James Marsh, who you may be more familiar with on a documentary basis (for Man on Wire), and starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones (as Mr and Mrs Hawking) the film focuses on the romance and marriage of Jane and Stephen who met in Cambridge during the 1960’s. Beginning before Stephen’s diagnosis, Marsh takes a comfortable twenty minutes or so to portray these two as individuals meaning for the next 100 minutes (approximately) the audience are intrigued to have an insight into both people. Cleverly interjecting Hawking’s career as a renowned physicist and his life at home The Theory Of Everything takes the audience on an emotional true story that relays the inspiring life of two intelligent, brave people.
Eddie Redmayne is spectacularly good as Professor Stephen Hawking, embodying his mannerisms and well-known streak of humour with an incredible realism. Although seen in acclaimed films such as Les Mis before this, the actors power on screen was yet to be fully realised – now, we are all aware of the talent Redmayne possesses, and to take on the duty of portraying a man such as Hawking, who has had such an astounding – yet difficult – life, is an impressive feat in itself. Redmayne makes Hawking a favoured man with audiences, and for the first time we find ourselves wholly inquisitive about his personal, rather than professional, life.
Accompanying Redmayne is Felicity Jones. Again, an actress who has glimmered with spark in previous characters, but here comes to life as Jane Wilde. Jones demonstrates to the audience the strength of Mrs Hawking, a woman who cared for Stephen through the toughest years of his life. With her own story here, those watching learn who Jane really is – a keen reader, a talented singer, adoring mother and loving wife and friend to Hawking. If you are going in blind with this film (and aren’t the most knowledgeable when it comes to the life and career of Hawking) then like me you will be compelled to learn more about these two come the end. Their life together, displayed here on screen in an attentive and compelling way, is such an intriguing story and one which is a pleasure to be educated on.
While not everyone will find themselves interested in the physics side of this film (after all it is a very complex field, and I found myself one or twice thinking ‘Whaaaaa?‘) Marsh uses simple yet effective visual imagery to demonstrate Hawking’s ideas and epiphanies to those watching, and these ideas while important to the story, never become the overhanging point; the focus is Jane and Stephen, and that is clear throughout. There are one or two stand-out scenes, and these need a warning: bring tissues. Beyond this, the script also deserves a moment of appreciation. Penned by Anthony McCarten the dialogue is never unnecessarily dramatized and stays realistically conversational, with the odd moment of humour that helps to remind you that this is a character-driven film. Simple yet effective seems to be the running theme for both McCarten and Marsh.
Generally a strong picture, at times it feels a little over-long. Some scenes overstay their welcome, but are generally outnumbered by ones of immense force and an emotional insight into the Hawking family. David Thewlis adds great support as Dennis Sciama, Hawkings mentor, teacher and friend and the addition of several other cast members (including Christian McKay and Simon McBurney) help to further push this film into the territory of greatness. With only a few weaknesses, James Marsh should certainly be proud of this moving and riveting biopic based on one of the greatest scientists (and obvious to audiences now) down-to-earth and inspiring men – Professor Stephen Hawking – the world has ever seen.