The Theory of Everything (2014) is an emotional journey about human endeavour. It follows the life of Stephen Hawking, based heavily on Jane Hawking’s memoir, Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen.
The film begins with Stephen Hawking as he starts his Physics Ph.D in Cambridge and meets Jane Wilde. It is clear that Stephen would rather stay in bed than do his work but when he does answer questions his natural intelligence shines through. Early signs of Hawking’s illness comes to ahead when he falls over and can’t get up. Multiple tests later and Stephen is told that he has ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease and Motor Neuron Disease. Stephen goes into a mental slump, rejecting everything and everyone around him until Jane manages to bring him to his senses. From this point on the film concentrates on their family life and how they both deal with the consequences of Stephen’s Disease.
While giving a firm nod to Hawking’s scientific achievements, director James Marsh chose to concentrate on a much more real approach. The film looks into Stephen and Jane’s marriage depicting how the illness affected both of them. Certain points have been romanticised for film and a lot of details, such as Jane’s pregnancy, were washed over with montages but it aways felt relatable and true. Stephen’s (Eddie Redmayne) frustration at his loss of independance is clear such as when getting into a wheelchair for the first time and saying ‘this is temporary’. However his enthusiasm for life shines through as he plays with his children and when he has scientific breakthroughs.
The film often eases back on Stephen’s journey to take a deep insight into Jane’s (Felicity Jones) life and the difficulties of being a carer. There is a distinct feeling of love and respect but also of loneliness as Stephen refuses to see doctors or to have anyone else help her look after him, the family and the house.
There were certain moments where I found the use of camera work off-putting. The way that the doctor’s face looks slightly too big when he tells Stephen the news. Every now and then there are montages filmed as if they are a family film – such as the wedding, the arrival of babies and some family holidays. These were styled in the way that they would have been filmed at the time, for example the very first film has an old-fashioned brown filter 1965 (the year of their marriage). I appreciated the concept but it took me out of the film a bit and I was interested to have watched some of these moments as they occurred without the montage like how Jane coped with looking after Stephen while being pregnant – although of course we can only see so much of a lifetime in two and a half hours of film.
Eddie Redmayne’s performance of Stephen is clearly worthy of his (Best Actor) Oscar. Stephen Hawking himself is said to been so moved that a nurse wiped a tear from his cheek after the screening. He even offered the license for the audio produced by his speech synthesizer which helps to push the realism of the film. Likewise, in an interview with the BBC, Ms Hawking pondered “How can I be on the screen and in a cinema seat at the same time?” over Felicity Jones’ performance.
I came away from The Theory of Everything feeling very humbled. It was almost like I had been allowed into someone’s life, something that is private and secret. As much as the film is about Stephen Hawking, his brilliant mind and the disease that he carries. It was ultimately about human life, how far we can push ourselves and what we are each capable of. We can’t all have fantastic brains or the patience of Jane but we all have things that we can do, that can surprise even ourselves if we would only try.
“However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.” – Stephen Hawking, 2006
The Theory of Everything
Directed By: James Marsh
Screenplay By: Anthony Mc Carten and (based on the memoir of/by) Jane Hawking
Starring: Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones