Sunday, 18 January 2015

Review: The Theory of Everything

This week I am reviewing the Golden Globe and Oscar nominated film The Theory of Everything (2014) a biopic that follows the relationship between Jane and Stephen Hawking throughout their marriage.

Copyright: Working Title / Indiewire

The film begins in Cambridge, 1963, where a 20 year old Hawking first meets Jane at a house party. He is a jokey lad, doing cosmology and having trouble picking a final year subject. She is studying French, Spanish and poetry and believes in God. Despite this opposition of religion versus science, the couple hit it off, and after another chance meeting start dating. Hawking also gets an idea for his dissertation, inspired by a lecture on black holes. However, everything is suddenly thrown into disarray when Stephen discovers he has Motor Neurone disease (MND) - which affects the nerves connected to the muscles of his body - and is only given two years to live.  

When Jane finds out what he is facing, she encourages him to stay strong and decides to stay with him. Despite the limited life span he might have, and warnings from his father that she'll probably come second to Stephen's work, the pair get married and decide to settle down. Over the next few years they  have to cope with the emotional and physical  obstacles of Stephen's Motor Neurone disease. 

I think this film deals with its subject matter very well. It gives the audience a sensitive and even-handed look into the life of Stephen and Jane Hawking, showing us how two people dealt with an extraordinary situation and made the best of it. It seems to me to strike a good balance between showing how hard coping with MND can be, as someone with it, as their partner, as their carer, and yet it also highlights the precious moments of their life - their wedding, the births of the children, happy summers and celebrations of Hawking's achievements. In effect, though the cinematography may look gloriously nostalgic, the action and plot  feels like it stays close to reality - which it hopefully should, since the film is somewhat based on Jane Hawking's own memoir. 

That's the other thing I liked about the film - there were no bad guys. Even in biopics, certain characters might end up being thrown in a less then kind light, but here no one was judged. Every character seemed to be presented just as they are, not as caricatures.

A mention should also be made of Eddie Redmayne's performance as Hawking. I had heard that he been nominated for an award for this role before seeing the movie, I have to agree that his acting is incredible. His physical performance is so entirely believable, and feels so natural, that you never question it for a second - it never feels forced.  

Finally I must say that a reversed time sequence towards the end of the film and its end credits deserve a mention - as they were beautifully done. 

In summary
A well-shot, wonderfully acted, sensitive film about one of the greatest scientists of our time and the amazing woman who married him and faced Motor Neurone disease with him for many years. The Theory of Everything is a fascinating look at their lives that is well worth the watch.

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