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The Theory of Everything is the story of the most brilliant and celebrated physicist of our time, Stephen Hawking, and Jane Wilde the arts student he fell in love with whilst studying at Cambridge in the 1960s. Little was expected from Stephen Hawking, a bright but shiftless student of cosmology, given just two years to live following the diagnosis of a fatal illness at 21 years of age. He became galvanized, however, by the love of fellow Cambridge student, Jane Wilde, and he went on to be called the successor to Einstein, as well as a husband and father to their three children. Over the course of their marriage as Stephen's body collapsed and his academic renown soared, fault lines were exposed that tested the lineaments of their relationship and dramatically altered the course of both of their lives.Written by
You can certainly tell it's Oscar time when all the more dignified and personal projects inundate the movie houses in hopes of capturing the gold. For most of the other nine months, we get lesser efforts and big blockbuster spectacles to fill-in until late October arrives. Then, it's time to get serious about our cinema choices. The Theory of Everything is one such film. It carries its pedigree with style and class, even if it is a rather conventional biopic in disguise, with its main character suffering through a debilitating disease while finding the stamina to go on.
With a very literate screenplay by Anthony McCarten and accomplished direction by James Marsh, the film tells the story of famed scientist Stephen Hawking and his battle with ALS. It also concentrates on his relationship with his supportive and loving wife, Jane.
Love will conquer all. Or so it should. But the horrors of this disease and the hardships they face seem unsurmountable. We see the couple meet, fall in love, marry, have children, and grow weary of each other. Stephen achieves adoration, fame, and fortune while Jane takes a back seat to her caregiver role and bringing up the family, amid the tears and frustration they face on a daily basis. One immediately empathizes with these characters due to their tragic situations.
The two leads are splendid and their acting is peerless. Felicity Jones plays Jane. Her role may be less showy and far more understated, but the actress is perfect at showing Jane's endurance and strength in the subtlest of ways. Eddie Redmayne is Stephen Hawking and his performance is literally trans-formative. (He must have learned his craft from tons of research about Hawking and creative influence from Daniel Day Lewis.) This is an impressive physical performance, from his black horn rimmed glasses to his walking cane and distorted posture. Both will receive well-earned accolades for their memorable work. Fine supporting work by Charlie Cox as Jonathan, their loyal friend, and Simon McBurney as Stephen's father add more clarity to the film.
As with most biographical films, one sees the rise and fall of the protagonist before it arrives. This film follows that tries-and-true formula. But Marsh's direction compensates for the linear structure and predictability of the story. The director relies heavily on his actors' subtle actions to tell more about their characters than the mere words they speak. He also wisely shows Hawking's point of view by angling the camera range from a lower stance or keeping it stationary to reinforce the characters' immobility. The final scene, recapping Hawking's life in reverse, beautifully sums up Stephen's life full circle in the most visual of terms.
But The Theory of Everything is foremost a love story. The film desperately wants to be a crowd-pleaser with an uplifting message of inspiration, even when the reality and truth of their actual lives is bleaker than it appears on screen. The film glosses over some factual content to play up the human drama of this pair of young lovers. It skillfully manipulates its audience to wallow in the heartbreak. Director Marsh successfully capture the pangs of young love and bittersweet romance in this emotionally involving film.
The Theory of Everything is an immensely satisfying film with stand-out acting and skilled direction. The proof is right there on the screen, even if the facts are slightly askew. GRADE: B+
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