Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Harry Lloyd, David Thewlis, Simon McBurney, Emily Watson
Directed By: James Marsh
Written By: Anthony McCarten
Rating: PG-13 (US) Running Time: 2 hr 3 mins
As Professor Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) uses his considerable intellect to search for a universal equation for all existence. It seems director James Marsh and screenwriter, Anthony McCarten are taking a bash at presenting the human equation in The Theory of Everything. Based on Jane Hawking’s second memoir about her life with the illustrious physicist.
So a biopic solely about Stephen and his work, beliefs and theories, this is not. Instead, the film’s primary focus is on how Jane and Stephen meet, and their life and commitment to each other as the professor succumbs to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease.) This is however, not a bad direction for this movie to take, since I would wager the vast majority of movie going audiences (including me) are not going to grasp Hawking’s theories about the origins of the universe, nor should they be expected to in the two hours it takes to tell this story.
As a story about life, love and romance, The Theory of Everything works very well. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are very authentic as Stephen and Jane, and the story carefully explores the couple’s years together with an understanding eye. Inspired in part by Jane Hawking’s second memoir, and much rosier recollection of events during their time together.
That focus however, does seem to present a problem when we think about Stephen Hawking’s life, and his achievements in the face of a debilitating disease. His work to unravel the mysteries of the universe can’t be ignored, nor fully explored in a two-hour film. Which leaves the most notable aspect of Hawking’s life, somewhat underdeveloped. This though is completely forgivable, and I believe a movie about this man’s life, loves, humor, beliefs and science was likely never going to be all encompassing. In the face of that understanding, The Theory of Everything is a great film, and in my opinion correctly chooses the more emotive story over the scientific.
If you’re looking to learn more about Stephen Hawking’s theories and physics, then you should buy one of this books on the subject. The Theory of Everything focuses on his emotional journey, disease, and the loves in his life.
The gorgeous photography by Benoît Delhomme, and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s moving score are going to be best served in a movie theater. If you wait for the rental, a HD viewing on a nice big TV is recommended. The movie’s impact will be diminished on anything portable.
Best Moment: << mild spoilers >>
As a certifiable Whovian*, is behooves me to mention two nods to the long running classic BBC TV show. The first during a dinner to celebrate Hawking’s doctorate, as a friend begins a toast ‘to doctor’, and Hawkings cuts in with ‘who?’ And later in the film, when Stephen first explores his new computer synthesized voice, and rolls around his home pretending to be a Dalek, ‘exterminate, exterminate!’
* Whovian – A fan of the popular science fiction show, Doctor Who.