One of the Year's Best Films
Studios send out their big Oscar worthy films during the last three months of each year. One of this year’s best just happens to be The Theory of Everything, adapted by screenwriter Anthony McCarten and based on Jane Hawking’s 2008 memoir Travelling to Infinity, which tells the real-life story of Jane and Stephen Hawking.
It’s hard to imagine that some people may not have heard about Britain’s Stephen Hawking, a cosmologist and conjectural physicist who had a passion for quantum physics and Einstein's theory of relativity. Many who know about Hawking’s work call him a genius.
The movie starts as Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is beginning his college career at Cambridge in the 1960s. His days are typical, spending some time with classmates, playing a sport, most of all diving into his class work and normally astonishing teachers with his thoughts and theories.
When Hawking meets Jane (Felicity Jones) they are immediately infatuated with each other. They start dating, can’t keep their hands off each other, and there’s a lovely scene at a school dance when they dance together on a bridge. Jane is mesmerized by Stephen’s knowledge. At the dance, he points out to her why the men’s white shirts standout in the nightlight better than women’s dresses -- and it all has to do with Tide.
Sadly, happily ever after is not in their future, at least not as most would expect. Hawking begins to stumble, walk awkwardly and when finally seen by a doctor is diagnosed with "motor neuron disease," amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease.
At first Hawking takes this illness in stride, even though doctors give him only two years to live. He concentrates on his classes, and continues to delve deep into the subjects that interest him. The harder it is for him to walk and do things while becoming disfigured, the more he’s determined. His friends help when they can, and luckily Jane stays by his side every step of the way.
Hawking survives because his brain is not affected by this disease. He concentrates on his theories of time, the black hole and what happens in the universe while continuing to amaze professors at the school.
Finding the right actor for the lead role was key to the success of the film, and Redmayne delivers an amazing performance. Screenwriter McCarten said, “My script called for an actor who could show the audience a man evolving over 25 years, going from being fully functional to having the use of only a few muscles -- mainly one hand and some limited facial movement -- and having his voice be superseded by a machine's.”
Producer Lisa Bruce said, “Eddie had a relentless intensity from day one. It was truly amazing to watch his evolution as he captured the many layers of both the Stephen we think we know as well as the man behind the image.”
Redmayne has starred in many films, including My Week with Marilyn and The Good Shepherd. In Theory, he submerges himself into a misconfigured body and yet manages to capture the deep soul of Stephen Hawking and his desire to understand everything he thinks about and assumes. He really embodies Hawking’s saying, “There should be no boundary of human endeavor.”
Redmayne is also great at hiding what hurts Hawking the most -- that he’s not the man Jane married. And yet his wife attends him and wants him as if he was the same as the day they married.
"When I read the script I was astonished at what this man has experienced, and done since 1963,” Redmayne declared. “It was one of the most inspiring things I'd ever read. Stephen Hawking is an icon of hope.”
Jones is equally superb as Jane. She comes across as a strong woman who lets everyone know it. "I was in awe of her determination,” Jones said. “She is someone who never gave up. She dedicated her life to Stephen but at the same time retained her own sense of identity. It was important for her to be recognized in her own right, which is why she continued on with her studies while caring for him and raising a family. What this woman accomplished!”
Eventually Hawking can no longer speak, but that doesn’t stop him. He learns how to use a computer to speak for him as he writes the words. He writes books and has huge audiences waiting to read them. Meanwhile his body continues to be more and more disabled. The Hawkings have three children and by now Jane is getting tired of her full-time care of Stephen and the children.
About this time, two other people enter the Hawking’s lives. Jane starts singing at a church and becomes infatuated by Jonathan (Charlie Cox), the choirmaster who also helps both of the Hawkings with chores. And Stephen acquires Elaine (Maxine Peake), a vivacious nurse who awakens some of his lost spirit.
Director James Marsh did an excellent job of picking the perfect cast, crew and story to bring to life. The Theory of Everything fills the entire basket with great entertainment. The story of Jane and Stephen’s life is a precious love story without end -- and Stephen and Jane’s fortitude to never give up on life is truly inspiring.
(Released by Focus Pictures and rated “PG-13” for some thematic elements and suggestive material.)
Review also posted at www.reviewexpress.com.