Director James Marsh‘s latest film, The Theory of Everything, based on Jane Hawking‘s memoir, tells the story of her life with theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne). However, does it tell the whole story?
Sort of. Because the source material is Jane’s point of view, it’s hard to tell whose story the film is. Part of the story tells of Stephen Hawking’s life prior to his meeting Jane (Felicity Jones), but the majority of it focuses on their life together after meeting at Cambridge. The film also documents Hawking’s work in physics and his rise to become one of the most respected and successful scientists in his field. Of course, discussing Hawking’s life with Jane also involves his diagnosis and living with motor neuron disease, which left him wheelchair-bound and unable to speak. Given only two years to live at the time of his diagnosis, Hawking is still living to this day and communicates with the help of a computer that gives him a voice.
Much of the story of Jane and Stephen’s life together is heart-wrenching. Watching him struggle with his disease is tough to watch at times, but I’m sure that the filmmakers could have made it even more detailed and true to life. I was expecting the film to strike more of an emotional chord, but because the story really is Jane’s and not Stephen’s, it’s tough to really get into his head at times, though the film tries. The audience watches as Jane struggles to care for both Stephen as his condition deteriorates as well as their children – apparently that one function isn’t affected by his disease. Together, they defy all the odds, but can their marriage survive so many stressors including Stephen’s growing fame?
While the story behind Hawking’s rise and the sacrifices Jane had to make is compelling, the real power of this film is in the performances. Eddie Redmayne completely transforms himself into Hawking. His performance is nothing short of mesmerizing as he perfectly mimics Hawking as the disease robs him of his mobility and voice. Jones is also great as Jane. It’s incredible to watch her hold things together as their lives become more and more complicated as the years go by. The supporting cast is also very good with special mention going out to Charlie Cox as Jonathan and David Thewlis as Hawking’s mentor and friend, Dennis Sciama. However, the film really belongs to Redmayne and is an absolute tour de force.
Overall, The Theory of Everything is a solid film filled with excellent performances with Eddie Redmayne taking the cake. I was expecting more of a tear-jerker, but the film is definitely touching. It’s a nice film powered by its cast.