Based on a true story, “The Theory of Everything” retells the relationship between renowned scientist Stephen Hawking and his ex-wife Jane Wilde. Hawking has become famous not only for his revolutionary theories on physics and cosmology, but also for battling with ALS for the majority of his life. What you may not know, though, is how Hawking started out, and that’s where the film begins.
Directed with surprising fluidity by James Marsh (best known for his documentary Man on Wire), the only words I can come up with to describe this film are extremely—but appropriately—British: delightful, charming, lovely. Despite the many heavy themes handled within the film, the overall feeling is one of hope and levity. It is astonishing to see the characters overcome so much simply out of their love for each other, and their love of a life riddled with hardships.
Eddie Redmayne (Les Misérables) portrays Hawking with wonderful charm and charisma. His performance is a heartbreaking tour de force—both emotionally and physically challenging; Redmayne is simply astonishing in his role. It’s easy to take it for granted while watching the film, but the way Redmayne is able to contort his body, face, and speech as if he were suffering from ALS is remarkable. Stephen Hawking has even commented that at certain points in the film, he felt like he was watching himself. That’s how good it is—a must-see achievement, and a shoe-in for a Best Actor nomination this Oscar season.
While this film certainly belongs to Redmayne, Felicity Jones is gives a subtle, yet powerful performance as Hawking’s wife. The anguish she portrays while watching her husband slowly deteriorate is crushing, but her optimism and refusal to give up during their 30-year marriage comes through just as strongly. Jones has been putting out solid work in supporting roles for a while now, and it’s great to see her rise up to the challenges that this role presents. While not as obviously affecting as Redmayne’s performance, it’s really a beautiful turn.
The whole film is beautiful, actually, and shot with incredible detail. A lot of focus is put on circles and spirals--on how everything is interconnected and important in its own way. The overall message is really heartwarming, the musical score is genuinely uplifting, and the whole tone of the film is designed to inspire. Okay--that might sound a little ridiculous, but it is really inspiring, and you just can’t miss out on the performances.
Overall: 8 out of 10.