In this Stephen Hawking biopic, we get a glimpse at the real life of the cosmologist and his struggle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). The basic gist is that Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is a PhD student at Cambridge, struggling to find a thesis for his dissertation. He encounters another student Jane (Felicity Jones) and they begin to fall in love, just as Hawking begins to develop his disease. Instead of giving up, this story recounts how they fell in love and managed to start a life together. It covers both their personal lives, as well as attempting to cover and explain his theories and work in the physics arena.
The biography of a physicist could be “really boring” some of you might think… but this movie is gripping, mostly as we watch Redmayne’s Hawking slowly succumb to this disease. He plays a young Hawking perfectly, awkward yet brilliant, but the real talent comes as he gets sicker. Redmayne disappears completely and it would be an absolute shame if he doesn’t receive at least a nomination, as this transformation is one of the most incredible I’ve seen. Not necessarily the transformation from actor to his role, but the transformation that the character undergoes.
Not to be outdone, Felicity Jones as his future-wife Jane also knocks it out of the park. Hers is a much more subtle transformation but Jones is outstanding, showing a silent struggle as she copes to take care of her ailing husband.
In terms of filmmaking, this is a stunning movie. While discussing things like black holes, director James Marsh uses astronomy to create visual flares, yet there are also really brilliant moments in the quiet and painful scenes. One scene juxtaposes a night at the orchestra with something unexpected and that moment gave me chills. Marsh created something beautifully tragic here.
In my review of Wild, I said that sometimes movies based on real stories can lack a punch, as life doesn’t always have those moments, but The Theory of Everything ends on a poignant note that calls back everything the movie has laid out, in a way that only this movie can.
What doesn’t work?
Stephen Hawking’s story is one of triumph and accomplishment, and director James Marsh brought it to life beautifully, with stellar talents and a keen eye. Eddie Redmayne will be the focus of talks when it comes to outstanding talent but Felicity Jones delivers a strong performance as well and carries most of the film on her shoulders. One of this year’s best.