Many will be able to recognise the name Stephen Hawking and even remember his wheelchair-bound appearance, yet not many people will be able to elaborate on his scientific endeavours or his personal struggles. The Theory of Everything explores the younger transformative years of Hawking, right up to his worldwide recognition as a genius.
James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything falls into the category of a biopic, and starts from Stephen Hawking’s university career at Cambridge through to his scientific breakthroughs of black holes. The Theory of Everything does just about enough to satisfy your understanding of the enigma that is Stephen Hawking. It explores Hawking’s relationship with a fellow student Jane Wilde (perhaps a little too over-zealously), his tragic physical deterioration as a result of his Motor Neurone disease that gradually paralyses him, and his scientific endeavours that have shaped modern cosmology. The Theory of Everything places so much emphasis on Hawking and Wilde’s relationship that it has shaped the film as a romantic-led drama. Often, romantic dramas are the paramount amalgamation of boredom, but this film manages to keep its head just above water and produce an intriguing depiction that enriches your knowledge of Stephen Hawking.
Eddie Redmayne, star of Les Misérables and My Week With Marilyn, literally buries himself into the role of Stephen Hawking, and by the end, all you see is the scientific genius himself. Redmayne’s physical transformation is truly a marvellous piece of acting as scene by scene, he excellently calculates Hawking’s gradual frailties, making his downfall appear realistically tragic. Redmayne needed to accustom himself to the habits of Hawking in order to even attempt the role. He transformed his stature, his voice, his movements but most importantly, has still managed to retain the genius of his thoughts by always appearing aware of situations even though he looks unresponsive. This is a truly visceral performance that towers over the film by instigating all its success, as it plays such an integral part in the film’s course of action.
Felicity Jones stars as the female lead, Jane Wilde, and is the audience’s connection to the ever-deteriorating Hawking. Jones’ character faces a delicately stringent dilemma that could tarnish her reputation as a patient, loving wife even though she has endured more than anybody has seen of her. Jones is truly captivating as the lead woman whose aura of boldness and power grows as her husband physically declines. Her performance excels as a woman that has performed the miracle of patience. Both Redmayne and Jones are the engines to this movie and, without their Golden Globe nominated performances, The Theory of Everything would truly suffer.
The film is essentially divided into two genres: romance and drama, but the romantic aspect of the film is perhaps a little too overly incorporated. Although the film does demonstrate the love between Stephen and Jane as they pull through a hellish struggle together, their relationship lacks bite as it never fluctuates and always seems to remain on the same level. However, there is an emotional ode to their relationship in the film, which is perhaps the best scene in the film simply because it is so heart rendering.
The dramatic side of proceedings formulates itself at certain points of Hawking’s physical change. You end up feeling bogged down in tragic depictions of his physical downfall, and this is furthered by both the lack of humorous output to downplay the film’s intensity, and whining instrumentals to accompany despondent scenes. The uplifting moments become almost overshadowed by the barrage of negativity depicted in Hawking’s life.
Both romance and drama are powerful genres on their own and need adequate time for exploration. As a result, the film touches over things and never really explores anything that isn’t romantically involved. There should have been more included about the science Hawking is most known for, but his breakthroughs in science are merely mulled over and employed as a foil to his physical capitulation. It would have suited Hawking’s story more to fervently display his scientific prowess; a contribution most people would recognise him for but struggle to explain exactly what he has done.
The Theory of Everything is a film of hope and shows how even through inconsolably despondent times, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. It is an intriguing insight into the personal life of Stephen Hawking, brilliantly acted by Eddie Redmayne, but this insight would have fascinated further if it payed more attention into the science that made Hawking famous.