by Jason Koenigsberg
Director: James Marsh
The Theory of Everything, the new biopic about Stephen Hawking, is an extraordinarily intelligent and mature picture. Do not be apprehensive about the subject matter, I for one knew very little about Hawking’s theories involving space and time, in fact it lectures us less than the recent movie Interstellar does about those topics. It never patronizes its viewer nor does it get too overly intellectual which it easily could have considering its academic subject matter. This is one of the great screen romances of recent years.
The story is straightforward chronicling Hawking’s life from his time at Cambridge starting in 1963 when he first became ill, up to his more contemporary and accomplished years. We see his body begin to fail him as his mind stays sharp and the courtship of his wife Jane unfolds in a genuine manner. The relationship element is one of the strongest parts of the film as it transcends Hawking’s personal struggles and the love story evolves into a great allegory about the hardships and sacrifices of marriage. The audience will be able to relate to all of the characters involved in these domestic struggles and the script was mature enough to allow each character to have sympathetic qualities, there is no real “bad guy” in the film, just their internal struggles with unfortunate situations. Screenwriter Anthony McCarten really does a stellar job adapting Jane Hawking’s book and he should be commended.
Along with a smart script, one cannot possibly discuss The Theory of Everything without mentioning its acting. This features some of the best performances of the year starting with Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking. His transformation as the character descends into the darkness of motor-neuron disease is astounding, he captures the Stephen Hawking we have seen on television and through photographs perfectly and then adds layers of depth and insight into a well-known figure that we do not know personally and it all feels believable. This picture will remind audiences of A Beautiful Mind (2001) and Eddie Redmayne is better than Russell Crowe was in that picture. It will also bring about comparisons to My Left Foot (1989) and I would not venture to say Redmayne is better than Daniel Day-Lewis as Christy Brown was in that film, but the fact that I am comparing him to Mr. Day-Lewis in his breakout Oscar winning role is a huge compliment to Redmayne’s outstanding talent.
His performance would not be as remarkable if it were not for Felicity Jones being equally as powerful as his wife Jane Hawking. She carries herself astoundingly well in a very mature and challenging role. Through her performance we really develop a better understanding about Stephen Hawking and how a beautiful and smart young woman could fall in love with a troubled genius and then deal with the difficulty of her decision through some very arduous times. Ms. Jones’ performance really anchors this picture and makes it work because without seeing things from her point of view, it would have been very difficult for the audience to truly understand its complex protagonist and his relationships with the rest of the world. With awards season nominations right around the corner, I will find it very hard to believe if Redmayne and Jones are not nominated for several Best Actor and Best Actress awards in the coming months.
Director James Marsh must also be commended for bringing about such astounding performances from relatively young but immensely talented actors. It works because it has the trifecta, great acting, smart writing and patient directing. At times the film moves a little too slow in the first hour, but because we get so invested in the characters it could take its time and allow us to follow these characters on their journey. This film has a certain sense of class that many pictures lack and it harkens back to classic film romances and biographies. I recommend this picture because it is one of the rare times that a movie can be simultaneously informative and entertaining. As educational as it is emotional The Theory of Everything is worth the price of admission.