The Theory of Everything is not just a film about Stephen Hawking, but also about his wife, Jane Hawking (née Wilde). Their stories start together early on, and they finish virtually together also. Whilst the film has been released in the United States already, it doesn’t come to the UK until 2015. It should be thought of much more than a Stephen Hawking biopic: it is just as much about the trials and tribulations of love, the things we are willing to do for those we love, and what happens as a result. This message is why it is such a beautiful film, and why The Theory of Everything is worth a watch.
We begin in Cambridge in 1960s, while Steven one of a number of young men working towards a PhD. At a party with his friend Brian he meets Jane. Their meeting is charming and the chemistry between Redmayne and Jones lifts the whole film. What is just as fascinating in this film in watching Hawking succumbing into Motor Neurone Disease. It begins with the most basic actions, Stephen unable to grip a cup, slipping whilst on the grass. Soon after it quickly slides into the sadness of the thing, and Redmayne portrays this masterfully. There is no overdone nostalgic pity, just the cold, hard truth of the thing.
At the same time we are shown Hawking’s potential as a great physicist. David Thewlis believes in Steven’s potential, but just as he reaches a breakthrough, that is when the disease begins to kick in. What follows is the story of Jane and Steven’s life together. They manage to have three children, but after a long time this puts a strain on Jane and any hope they might have of a normal life. Even though he is given just two years to live, he pushes on. We do not see him completely struggle with his accomplishments. There are a few shots of him lecturing here and there, his book put in the bookshops and so forth, up until he receiving (though declining) his knighthood from the Queen.
It isn’t my place to predict the outcome of the upcoming awards season. Indeed, there are so many good films up for grabs and I certainly haven’t seen them all (besides, Oscar politics is a funny thing). However, upon watching this film, it’s easy to see why it has so much Oscar buzz. Both Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are outstanding, and there’s a scene near the end which is nothing short of masterful. Props must also be given to Harry Lloyd and Charlie Cox in supporting roles that are also well played if utterly dwarfed by the powerhouse acting of the leads.
It seems strange to say that the film makes us identify with a unique world famous genius but, well… it does. By not over concentrating on how much of a genius Stephen is, we’re given a snapshot into the life of one person struggling with the most debilitating disease, and how his loved ones cope with it. The colour palette too changes with the scenes, and this does just enough to convey atmosphere and emotion to the audience without needing to fill things in via dialogue. The bright May Ball scene is full of yellows and golds, the hospital scene a cold blue, the lecture scene at the end the sterile modern Apple/Samsung blue hue and so on. The contrast between the golds and blues are varied but beautiful, and with care one can clue into this to make their experience of watching the film even richer.
The Theory of Everything has awed me. Is it better than Birdman/Nightcrawler/Foxcatcher/The Imitation Game? Well, I’m not sure. I would certainly like to see Redmayne and Jones up for some big awards, as well as for the screenplay to get one too. Is the best? Thankfully it’s not my job to decide. However, I will tell everyone I know to watch it and if you take away anything from this review, it’s that you should see it too. If the art of filmmaking is meant to promote wonder and inspire others, then The Theory of Everything is a wonderful ambassador for the film industry.