The Theory of Everything, 2014.
Directed by James Marsh.
Starring Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Harry Lloyd, David Thewlis, Emily Watson and Christian McKay.
A look at the relationship between Stephen Hawking (Redmayne) and Jane Hawking (Jones), from their meeting at Cambridge until Hawking’s worldwide success.
There have been many biopics that show a person changing and aging over a long timeframe; some work at realistically showing that, others are just hopeless. The saddening progression of Stephen Hawking’s Motor Neuron Disease will shock and amaze viewers during The Theory of Everything, with stunning work from the make-up department, and an Oscar-worthy performance from Eddie Redmayne.
Come late December, when promotional posters are plastered everywhere for The Theory of Everything, you will be bombarded with 4 and 5 stars littering the advertisement, with quote upon quote heralding the performances, most specifically its lead. From supporting roles in Les Misérables, My Week with Marilyn and the upcoming Jupiter Ascending Eddie Redmayne has not a seminal role that makes him stand-out. Here on out (one should think), he’ll be the buzz of casting offices everywhere. There is a nuance to his portrayal of Stephen Hawking rarely seen in cinema, working from the bare bones of imitation and taking control over costuming himself as the man. To clarify – there is no caricatured element of Redmayne’s Hawking, but a blisteringly real reflection of the genius, going from a healthy young student to the focused – yet paralysed – icon.
You can nearly state that every film is an “X”’s person’s film – each film relating to a certain trope/personality. The Theory of Everything is an actor’s film – a guide in how present emotion and chemistry in a believable and poignant way. This film is less about Hawking’s mind, focused more on his family life or, more specifically, his relationship with Jane Hawking – his first love. Redmayne and Felicity Jones as the power couple are astonishingly real – quaint, funny, struggling, and triumphant. They can sound like a trite duo, oozing of Oscar bait, yet they are completely lovable and earnest. Writer Anthony McCarten denotes their love and hardships effectively, close-knit during their university days, and loosening that metaphorical grip as Hawking starts working more on his theories. With the introduction of Charlie Cox’s Jonathan Hellyer Jones, the spotlights splits somewhat, adding some dramatic tension along with some interesting (and often funny) religious ruminations. Whereas Redmayne can only emote in certain ways once the story evolves, the weight of the film rests mainly on Jones’ shoulders, a job she does with undeniable delicacy.
James Marsh’s direction collates these components with certified authority, giving us an astute look at the Hawking household as it changed over those years. From directing Man on Wire, Project Nim and Shadow Dancer, Marsh has always showed great tact at the progression of a story. Each film was about a character (nearly all based on fact), developing during through momentous events. With Hawking he’s playing off the same format, ideally suited to this story. Those wanting a Beautiful Mind-esque look at turmoil and intellect clashing will not find much of it here, this is far more uplifting.
Thanks to Benoît Delhomme’s magnificent cinematography, The Theory of Everything is not only engaging on a narrative level, but also visually. The Cambridge ball scene, where Stephen and Jane fell in love is a dazzling scene resembling early Capra (with added colour) or Powell and Pressburger. It’s from this moment on that you realise this is going to be a majestic, graceful take on their story. It will fare well at BAFTA, the Golden Globes and the Oscars, and deservedly so. It contains such weighty plot arcs, but never stumbles during its management of these moments, rounding off as a memorable and moving film.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Piers McCarthy – Follow me on Twitter.