Stephen Hawking is a brilliant scientist, he’s a man known in almost every household and his theories affect how we understand the universe, even if we don’t know that it was him that came up with the ideas we appeal to. However, what a lot of people don’t think about when Stephen Hawking is mentioned is that there was a time before he was famous, a time before his work was so influential, a time when he was just like everyone else.
“The Theory of Everything” wants you to realise that this man has gone through a hell of a lot in his lifetime, and his story is both triumphant and inspirational. There was a time when Stephen Hawking had to wake up in the morning, knowing that there would be a day in which he wouldn’t be able to walk, talk or even move, and yet he still had the courage to finish his PhD, raise three children and love his wife. This is an amazing story if ever there was one, and I am so glad that I took the time to see it told.
This is a biopic, so the only thing that you really need to know about the story is that it attempts to capture some of the most significant moments in Stephen Hawking’s life (as well as the life of his first wife, Jane, played by Felicity Jones). At the start of the movie I thought things were moving along slightly too quickly, because there were things I wanted to know, such as what Hawking’s relationship with his parents was like, but that’s just a testament to the achievements Stephen Hawking has made during his life.
There wasn’t enough time in this movie to explore such things, because this is a romantic drama in its purest form, and in order to really develop the relationship between Stephen (played by Eddie Redmayne) and Jane, time had to be spent fleshing out their characters. That development paid off nicely; I was very impressed with the emotion that the two were able to create throughout the movie, and I have no real complaints about the direction this film took when chronicling the events of Hawking’s life.
The acting in “The Theory of Everything” is spectacular, and I’m so pleased that Eddie Redmayne won a Golden Globe for his performance. He really is fantastic, and of all the people that were nominated, I believe that his was both the best performance, and the most difficult performance to pull off. He had to be so careful and sensitive in portraying such a brilliant man, because he isn’t just playing the part of a person suffering from motor neurone disease, (which would be challenging enough), he’s also attempting to capture Hawking’s likeness and character. From what I have seen and read, I understand that he did that incredibly well, so well in fact that Hawking reportedly felt as though he was looking in a mirror when he saw the film.
There can be no question that Redmayne pulled off the role in a very impressive way, and after about twenty minutes he really does become Stephen Hawking. There’s no underlying thought in your mind telling you that you’re watching a man playing pretend, which is amazing when you really think about it. I completely forgot that I was watching an actor play his role, which always enhances my enjoyment of a movie, and adds to my appreciation of it when I leave the cinema.
Felicity Jones played her part wonderfully in this film, portraying a sense of sadness throughout, despite the fact that she’s always smiling and making the best of her situation. She made me believe in the character, because she conveyed how painful her life was, which in turn showed just how much Jane loved her husband, refusing to walk away no matter what the cost would be to her own happiness. It was a tragic love story, made all the more heartbreaking by the clear chemistry between the two leading actors. Both Redmayne and Jones have been in great movies before, with Redmayne recently appearing in “Les Miserables”, and Jones playing one of the main roles in “Albatross”, a personal favourite film of mine, so I hope that the fact that they carried this movie on their young shoulders will lead to them getting some major roles in the future.
The most surprising and wonderful thing about “The Theory of Everything” is that it is very funny, despite the fact that its subject matter is undeniably serious and at times extremely upsetting. Redmayne gives Hawking real personality, and shows that there is a cheeky, boisterous side to the man that the public thinks they know so well. This is a side of Hawking which in reality we don’t get to see, so to get a glimpse of what he’s like behind closed doors feels very special.
There are moments in this movie when you really do laugh, despite the fact that seconds before you were close to tears, because in spite of everything, Hawking (as a character) doesn’t take himself too seriously, and delivers some hilarious and self-deprecating one liners. These comedic moments do a great job of making sure that the subject matter doesn’t become overwhelming, and they take the film away from tearjerker territory. They play a key role in making the film what it is, as this isn’t supposed to be a depressing tale, it’s a story of overcoming great odds and triumphing over adversity, because after all, Hawking was given two years to live, and has completely surpassed that expectation.
There are two lines in the movie which cement that fact into your mind; the first comes early in the movie, just after Hawking’s diagnosis, in which his father tells Jane that this will be a ‘very heavy defeat’, and the second comes towards the end, as that prediction has been proved wrong, and Hawking states that ‘there should be no limit to human endeavour’. That’s what this movie is all about, the fact that no matter what happens to you or how bad it gets, you can always make the best out of what you have, and that in doing so you have succeeded in your life. It doesn’t matter what the world throws at you, as long as you are here, you have to throw everything you have right back at it.
The subject matter was dealt with in a refreshing and interesting way, showing that this man is just that, and that despite his intelligence he’s still flawed. People like Stephen Hawking become something strange in everyday life, they become an idea in our heads, and we don’t stop to appreciate that they’re just like us. I’m close to the age that Hawking would’ve been when he was diagnosed, I’m in the process of completing my degree, and I have genuine ambitions, hopes and dreams which right now feel like they are available, but very far away. I don’t know what I would do if I faced what Hawking did, but I know that he is extraordinary for coping, and that his wife (as portrayed in this movie) is also a truly astounding woman. This movie makes you stop and think about what people are truly capable of, it has something relevant to say about the nature of our existence, and it isn’t just cashing in on one man’s amazing story.
All in all, “The Theory of Everything” is a fantastic film. It’s wonderfully executed, well performed, and shows restraint when telling an incredible story. As a biopic it’s almost perfect, because it makes you feel something for its characters, whilst also inspiring you to want to be more and make more of yourself. When you leave the cinema, having seen this film, you’ve acquired a new perspective and appreciation for a man that you already knew was exceptional, which is all that you could possibly ask for.