Apparently Stephen Hawking isn’t some advanced life form sent to propel us into the future. Apparently he’s just another human with a kind, humorous, and unique disposition. Apparently, the only difference between him and me is that when I’m bored I can get up and walk away. Well, maybe not the only difference. The Theory of Everything tells the magnificent story of Professor Hawking from the start of his PhD in 1963 to his meeting with the Queen in 1989. Behind the brilliant man is a story of perseverance, lightheartedness, and a gallant wife who manages their secret struggles.
We’ve all heard of Stephen Hawking the genius, but what do we really know about the man in the chair? From the very start of the film you can tell this eccentric physicist (played by Eddie Redmayne) with a charming sense of humour is more than just a little awkward on his feet. His theories (revolutionary ideas he proves, disproves, and re-writes) appear to come with a price, as his motor neuron disease (what we now relate to ALS) eats away at his muscles, his speech, and eventually his breathing. Through thick and thin, however, Stephen is carefully watched over by his wife, Jane (Felicity Jones). He may be the genius, but she is the hero. With three kids and a disabled husband, Jane essentially sacrifices her life for her family’s. She is Stephen’s guardian angel, watching over him at the expense of her own liberty. The Theory of Everything shows us the infinite reaches of the mind but also the small, human, physical moments that contain more personal meaning than the whole wide universe.
It was a very brave move for Eddie Redmayne to agree to play Stephen Hawking. How do you express heart wrenching dialogue when your only tools – facial, vocal, and spatial – are eyebrows? Stephen doesn’t get his famously electronic voice until nearly the end of the film, and even then there are long, dramatic pauses in the conversation as he types his response. Still, you can feel the deep emotion in the robotic “I’m sorry” because of the way Redmayne looks when it’s spoken. And as for physicality, forget Rocky, forget Magic Mike, this movie must have been one sweat-drenched workout after another. It takes some seriously hard work to give the appearance of slow degeneration through minute changes, and some serious planning when you consider that films are shot out of sequence. I’m going to say it: Redmayne has one of the best transformations I’ve seen since Heath Ledger donned the clown paint and scars.
Standing right next to him is the martyr, Jane (Felicity Jones). The Theory of Everything is about a partnership, not just one man’s brilliant mind. Without Jane, Stephen wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning. She is the tripod to his camera, the stem to his flower, the freezer to his Ben & Jerry’s. Jane is our relatable link in this story of a genius, helping us feel connected to Stephen’s life through her refusal to let fate slow him down.
It is largely thanks to Jane’s force of will that Stephen has spread his two-year life expectancy over a very fulfilling 50-year period. When she says, “He must live,” you know it’s not only for her sake or even his own, but for the sake of science, humanity, and what he can achieve with a few more years of hard thinking. In a word, The Theory of Everything is inspiring. In a second word, it’s humbling. The Theory of Everything is artistically directed, with a beautiful combination of modern techniques and 1970s-flare. When a quiet scene with a robotic, monotone voice makes me tear-up I have to submit to the obvious and give this movie a 10/10.
“However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.” – Stephen Hawking
Check out the trailer.