“There ought to be something very special about the boundary conditions of the Universe, and what can be more special than that there is no boundary? And there should be no boundary to human endeavour.” – Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking is certainly a man who lives by his words. Developing some of the most mind-blowing and forward-thinking theories of our time in relation to physics and cosmology, and living with one of the most fatal and debilitating diseases known to us, he truly is an inspiration.
The Theory of Everything is a perspective on Stephen’s life. From his early days studying at Cambridge University to his very early diagnosis with Motor-neurone disease and his struggle to live with the disease while maintaining some semblance of a normal life. But it is clear from the opening credits that Hawking was never going to have anything other than an extraordinary life.
Starring Eddie Redmayne as Hawking and Felicity Jones as his wife, Jane Wilde, this is a heartbreaking, frustrating story that is only made bearable by the support that Hawking has received throughout his life and Hawking’s dry sense of humour itself, which despite his many challenges never falters.
Directed by James Marsh (Man on Wire, Project Nim) and written by Anthony McCarten, people have slammed this film for focusing too much on the love story between Hawking and long time partner Jane Wilde and giving less focus to Hawking’s theories and discoveries. I disagree. This film was based on Jane Wilde’s Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen not Hawking’s A Brief History of Time (although obviously the development of this book is involved in the film). I think the filmmakers have perfectly balanced the content to appeal to a wide audience. They do not cover every detail of Hawking’s full life in the film but to be fair, there is a lot of life to fit in one movie here and a lot of scientific theory. This is ironic in itself considering Hawking’s condition, diagnosed at 21 years of age, gave him just two years to live. But Hawking defied all odds and is still working and theorising at age 73.
Yes, the film probably focuses more on his disease than his theories but motor-neurone disease is not a simple hindrance that one learns to cope with, it is a completely life-altering, all-consuming battle to survive. Moreover, most people will struggle to follow what little scientific theory is actually presented in the film let alone cope with in-depth mathematical equations and scientific jargon. Realising this, the filmmakers have focused on the more human aspects of Hawking’s journey and I believe this was the correct choice.
It’s not difficult to see why Redmayne has already been showered with accolades for his portrayal of Hawking in this film. He embodies Hawking to the point where you actually believe you are watching Hawking himself. It is all at once bizarre and inspiring and so delicately executed that he never once crosses the line into caricature. It is a triumph for Redmayne as an actor and one that will no doubt have him seriously in the running for an Oscar.
I’d be remiss not to mention Jane Wilde (Jones) here also. While many young people would run from a new partner diagnosed with Motor-neurone disease (ALS), Wilde chose to follow her heart and made a commitment to the man that she loved. Wilde’s unfaltering faith that her husband would overcome every obstacle presented to him causes one to wonder if he would have managed without her unwavering conviction. Despite even being told by his family to leave before things got too hard, she refused and stood by Hawking’s side. They were married for thirty years and had three children together.
Jones gives a compelling performance as Wilde, incorporating the full spectrum of emotion one would undoubtedly experience in a situation such as hers. There is no sense of martyrdom about her character at all. She is just a girl utterly in love and while that love is often tempered by frustration and at times doubt, it is clear that she never stops loving Hawking.
With a running time of just over two hours, the film doesn’t feel long. I would however advise that you pack plenty of tissues. It’s a heartbreaker.
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