To put a genius’ life into terms we can understand and possibly even relate to is a task best left to the experts. It is not an impossible task, but it takes a very special kind of person to contextualize very complex ideas into something the general masses can consume. The only reason I can safely say this action is not impossible is because it has already been done by a great man, Stephen Hawking, in his immensely educational book, “A Brief History of Time”. Hawking didn’t oversimplify cosmology for us, but introduced it in a way we could visualize. The Theory of Everything does oversimplify everything, however, and gives one of the greatest thinkers of our lifetime the good old fashioned Hollywood treatment, trying to smooth all the rough edges with sentiment (instead of science) as the answer.
College is all about experimenting, but for Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne), it was a very different kind of experimentation he was interested in. He had a fascination with the nature of black holes and other cosmological occurrences. One occurrence he didn’t calculate was falling in love with Literature major Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones). Another would be the incurable, generative disease that would claim his motor functions at a very early age. That would only strengthen his resolve to leave a lasting legacy, which took the form of his research, pioneering our understanding of black holes, and also by marrying and having children with Jane. Yes, his lack of motor function control didn’t extend to THAT region. After the disease claims most of Hawking’s independence, we notice the shift away from the research, and more into the family and how all the pressures and responsibilities change and overwhelm Jane.
The film was inspired by the memoir by Stephen Hawking’s now ex-wife Jane, “Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen”. This makes sense and serves as an explanation as to why the film almost seems to focus on Jane’s story most, emphasizing the love story aspect rather than the pure scientific discovery. That is where the pitfall of every lazily created biopic comes in. Love is the answer to everything, maybe even part of the solution to the theory of everything, or so they would have you believe. The over-emphasized romantic aspect threatens to eclipse the complexities of Hawking’s life, journey, and especially his research. But save for a few eye rolls, this treatment is fairly innocuous, with such beautiful cinematography and two spectacular leads to compensate for it.
The chemistry between Redmayne and Jones is the building block of the entire film, and it makes the foundation firm. Redmayne delivers an inspiring performance as Stephen Hawking, even when he must rely on his facial expressions alone during the last half of the film. He perfectly captures every nuance and highlights the slow decline of this degenerative disease with such expertise that the only thing I can compare it to would be Daniel Day-Lewis’s Oscar winning performance in My Left Foot. It is nowhere near a stretch to see an award, or at the very least a nomination, for Redmayne’s performance in the very near future.
The subject matter and the nature of the disease are dark (some may even call them ‘black holes’), but the cinematographer Benoît Delhomme manages to introduce a tragic beauty in everything, showing us that we can find beauty on Earth (and in everyday life) as easily as we can in the cosmos. All of these elements, like all the elements involved in trying to solve the real theory of everything, (for the most part) compliment each other and work together to create the whole that is The Theory of Everything, and that is all thanks to director James Marsh (Man on Wire) and his experience in telling the stories of real people.
The Theory of Everything doesn’t actually show you everything, but when you move past all the typical aspects (Hollywood), there lies something truly magnificent. With stellar directing and cinematography, this film is able to utilize its shining stars. Although the story isn’t enough to transport us to other galaxies, thanks to the supernova that is Eddie Redmayne, it easily makes this film out of this world.
RATING: ★★★★★★★★(8/10 stars)
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