THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
FILM REVIEW - THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Running Length: 123 minutes
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, David Thewlis, Simon McBurney
Directed by: James Marsh
Screenplay by: Anthony McCarten
Cinematography: Benoît Delhomme
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release Date: 29th April 2016
A truly spectacular achievement
Typical – you wait all year for a biopic about a British genius then two arrive at once. It is awards season, I suppose. Hot on the heels of last month’s The Imitation Game (and with the sage advice of Tropic Thunder’s Kirk Lazarus undoubtedly ringing in his ears) Eddie Redmayne turns in a career defining performance as quantum physicist Stephen Hawking in director James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything.
We first meet Hawking in 1963 as a young PhD student without focus or a thesis topic (something I can presently relate to). This nascent Hawking is a skittish fop – all floppy hair, teeth and NHS specs – more interested in skirt-chasing than quantum physics. Add a velvet tuxedo into the mix and it becomes impossible to dispel the image of Austin Powers. He meets and falls in love with fellow PhD student Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones) before the early signs of Motor Neuron Disease begin to manifest. Faced with a prognosis of two years of gradual physical decline followed by death, the magnitude of being unable to communicate his thoughts and ideas sinks in, and Hawking begins to retreat emotionally. However, Jane stands by her man in spite of attempts to repel her (“You just missed him. He was here earlier”).
In between clicking out the seminal “A Brief History of Time” at four words a minute from his wheelchair, Hawking also managed to marry twice. Well played that man. There’s a bit of “of course… relative density!” frantic blackboard-scribbling (why always blackboards? Presumably because frantic scribbling in notebooks isn’t very cinematic), but despite some rudimentary attempts to sex-up science you won’t come away from The Theory of Everything with a clearer idea of what Hawking’s theory is about (black holes or some such).
At the heart of Marsh’s movie is a story about love and relationships, not quantum physics. Comparisons are bound to be made with Jim Sheridan’s My Left Foot, but The Theory of Everything shares more common ground with Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, with Marsh employing a more straightforward classical style than Schnabel’s avant-garde aesthetic.
Sometimes an actor makes you all too aware of “the process,” but Redmayne disappears completely into character. A non-disabled performer portraying the severely-disabled Hawking is ripe with the possibility of crass exploitation, but Redmayne imbues the character with a dignity that is impossible to criticise. The monumental task of depicting Hawking’s dissipating identity and gradual decline from the effects of Motor Neuron Disease is all the more staggering when the non-sequential production process is taken into consideration. Never has such effort appeared so effortless. As Jane Wilde Hawking, Felicity Jones arguably has the harder role in reacting rather than acting, but this is Redmayne’s movie. It is a spectacular achievement and there are simply not enough superlatives to do adequate justice to his performance. Redmayne deserves every accolade that is bound to be forthcoming.