The Theory of Everything (2014) Directed by James Marsh. With Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones and Charlie Cox.
With a host of Oscar nods under its belt, and a win for actor Eddie Redmayne playing theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking – The Theory of Everything tells the story of the relationship between Hawking and his wife, Jane (Felicity Jones). The film begins when the couple first meet and covers Hawking’s diagnosis and struggle with motor neuron disease, as well as his success in physics and subsequent celebrity.
It’s an obvious, yet inescapable comparison, but the first sight of Redmayne as a young Hawking immediately conjures Mike Myers as Austin Powers. With a mop of reddish-brown hair, thick black-rimmed glasses and a wide toothy smile, all that’s missing is the customary – “Yeah baby!“. Once we get our bearings, however, we quickly realise that this is a beautifully observed performance that is at pains to ensure absolute authenticity. No-one could argue that Redmayne didn’t deserve his Oscar statuette. His performance is utterly convincing, portraying a deeply intelligent, yet playful man. Indeed, it’s refreshing that despite the sadness and struggle – there is still room allowed for Hawking’s sense of humour to shine through.
The film itself is an adaptation of Jane Wilde Hawking’s memoirs, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen. As Jane, Felicity Jones is very good. We see her loyalty and her determination to build a family and stand by her man, whatever the odds. Her strength and courage fuel her husbands. Her devotion is tested when she meets Charlie Cox’s, Jonathan, a widower who forms a bond with the Hawking family upon meeting Jane through the local church choir. It creates an awkward love triangle that acts as a significant part of the films overarching plot.
Benoît Delhomme’s photography goes out of its way to romanticise us (you will wear rose-tinted specs), and it often feels like we are skimming over important details. However, it is worth remembering that the film is about the private relationship of a man and his wife, and that the success of Hawking as a physicist is not the central direction of the plot – as much as we might wish it were.
Considering my great expectation, I found the film slightly dissatisfying – almost as if there’s a better story behind the story we’re being told. On the whole, though, it has enough to recommend it by and Eddie Redmayne is a true revelation. 3.5/5