The Theory of Everything (2014)
When one comes across the name Stephen Hawking, such is the aura of the renowned theoretical physicist that the first image formed in the mind is that of a wheelchair-bound figure who communicates through the speech-generating device attached to his ride, and then comes the remarkable breakthroughs his research has made in the fields of science, changing almost everything there’s to know about general relativity & quantum gravity. Having defied every expectation whether scientific or personal, Stephen Hawking still remains an influential & inspirational figure not just in the world of popular science but pop culture as well & is without a doubt one of the greatest minds to have ever lived.
However, one needs to set their expectations right before diving into this so-called biopic of Stephen Hawking because The Theory of Everything isn’t really an exploration of the breakthroughs Hawking made throughout his academic career but is mainly about the various stages of his personal life. It depicts the onset of his motor neurone disease, its diagnosis over the years & also glances over some of his ideas but the major emphasis is on his relationship with his first wife, Jane Wilde Hawking. The viewers are required to remember that this story is adapted from Jane’s memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, and is told entirely from her perspective & not Stephen’s.
The story of The Theory of Everything begins in 1963 Cambridge University where during a party, astrophysics student Stephen Hawking meets Jane Wilde, who’s studying literature in the same university & there’s an instant spark between the two. Their relationship soon blossoms but an unexpected tragedy arrives when Hawking learns that he suffers from a rare motor neurone disease & has only two years to live. Devastated by this diagnosis, he loses all hope until it is rekindled by Jane whose love for him gives him a reason to live. The two eventually marry & have kids of their own but as Hawking’s health deteriorates, the added responsibility of a caretaker tests Jane unlike anything she was prepared for.
Directed by James Marsh, best known for his Academy Award-winning documentary Man on Wire, The Theory of Everything is a fab work of incredible warmth & affection as Marsh does a superb job with the given script & is painfully honest with its content. The screenplay is written by Anthony McCarten & is a splendid adaptation of its source material that sidelines everything to focus entirely on the relationship dynamics between Jane & Stephen Hawking. Cinematography provides a glossy layer to the whole picture, Editing keeps the narrative quite engaging for the majority of its runtime, and Jóhann Jóhannsson chips in with a score that’s immensely intimate, beautiful & heartwarming.
Coming to the acting department, The Theory of Everything features a very interesting ensemble in Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, David Thewlis, Maxine Peake & others but it’s Redmayne & Jones who end up leaving the most lasting impression in their respective roles of Stephen Hawking & Jane Wilde. Redmayne’s illustration of the famous physicist is truly extraordinary for the young actor is absolutely immersed in his physically challenging role & nails Hawking’s mannerisms with breathtaking precision. Felicity Jones is equally committed in the role of Jane Wilde Hawking & her emotionally resonant performance is as impressive a highlight as Redmayne’s jaw-dropping work.
On an overall scale, The Theory of Everything may not be the Stephen Hawking biopic many might have been looking forward to but it nonetheless works as an awe-inspiring love story that offers an insightful peek into the personal life of an unusual couple. Sure it feels a bit manipulative on certain instances, conforms to the conventional cliché that behind every successful man lies a great woman, travels a route that doesn’t involve any risks or bold decisions & concludes on a rather lacklustre note but the chemistry between Redmayne & Jones is so magical, convincing & full of charm that it brushes away most complaints. An endearing & entertaining experience that’s technically polished & works on the strength of its two leads, The Theory of Everything is delightfully recommended.