On Friday I finally saw the Stephen Hawking biopic, The Theory of Everything, with the incredibly riveting Oscar-winning performance from Eddie Redmayne. It was in Version Originale and the French subtitles floated gently across the screen, with only about a quarter of the actual dialogue! The film is based on Jane Hawking‘s memoir Travelling to Infinity : My Life with Stephen. Jane is Stephen’s first wife, has a PhD in Medieval Spanish Poetry and is mother of their three children.
I still remember when Stephen Hawking’s book ‘A Brief History of Time‘ was a brainy must read. I persevered with it, but remember feeling as though I wasn’t quite sure I had grasped everything within its confines. Apparently there have been subsequent dumbed down releases of the book in a more digestible format for the general populace.
Stephen Hawking’s story is ready-made for a biopic, although the film doesn’t actually offer much insight to the man himself, his body of work and how he challenged prevailing cosmology theories. There are glimpses of his genius but the story primarily focuses on the bittersweet relationship between Stephen and Jane, and the toll of his bodily deterioration through motor neurone disease. The film emphasises the dogged determination of Stephen to keep working while his body failed him. It also highlights the strength of Jane in her struggle to keep her sanity while raising three children and nursing her husband. I’m sure it glosses over the relationship breakdown phase as well, but c’est la vie.
One of the most poignant scenes is when Stephen begins to find it excruciatingly difficult to hoist himself up the stairs and realises his days of movement are over, while his toddler looks down at him from the top of the landing and the contrast between the two couldn’t be more pronounced. There are quite a few heart wrenching scenes of a similar ilk, so I do suggest having tissues on hand when you see it.
Director James Marsh (Man on Wire) chose his cast well and the acting is typically high standard British fare with David Thewlis and Emily Watson in supporting roles. Personally I loved Felicity Jones portrayal of Jane Hawking as it struck me as equally fine tuned as Eddie Redmayne’s, although he did have the more difficult showy made for an Oscar role.
Apparently Stephen Hawking‘s real synthesised voice is used in the film for a touch of authenticity. The sets are beautiful with the Cambridge setting and the costumes in the early years are to die for. I also loved the lush orchestrated soundtrack from Johan Johannsson.
The movie seems to end on a cheery note, however I read that after Stephan Hawking remarried he was quite remote from his children. It wasn’t until after his divorce from his second wife and nurse, Elaine Mason, that the family really spent time together again. In fact Stephen and Jane attended the London premiere of the film together.
Overall it’s a touching story in its portrayal of one man’s refusal to be bound by his disease, as well as an affecting tale of love that endures through what most would consider exceptionally trying circumstances. If you want to understand why Stephen Hawking is known as one of the great minds of our time, The Theory of Everything will probably not enlighten you on that front but regardless I highly recommend it.
Notes : Images : Dancing : thenational.ae : Family : hollywoodreporter.com : teaching : thefilmexperience.net : Merry go round : the guardian.com : Premiere : telegraph.co.uk