Film review: The Theory Of Everything
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- Published on Tuesday, 30 December 2014 10:57
- Last Updated on 30 December 2014
- Freda Cooper
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He’s one of the world’s most recognisable celebrities, with easily the most distinctive voice, and he wrote a best seller on the unlikely subject of astro-physics. But what else do we know about Stephen Hawking? The Theory Of Everything is one of the first films out of the blocks in 2015 and brings the start of his career to the big screen.
The film follows Hawking’s early years and his relationship with his first wife, Jane. So it’s a love story, covering their initial meeting and opposing views on religion, their marriage and three children and the eventual parting of the ways. But between those landmarks come other events and their ramifications. The devastating diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease, his PhD and growing status in his field, the loss of his voice and its replacement with the computerised electronic one that will forever be associated with him and, finally, the publishing of the bestseller that sold a staggering 10 million copies around the world.
Compared to the 2013 documentary, Hawking, which gave a respectful but unflinching portrait of the world’s most famous scientist, The Theory Of Everything very much wears its heart on its sleeve as a romance. It tells its story in a straightforward way – no flashbacks and very little for the science nerds in the audience – but it’s a very rose tinted portrayal of Hawking once he’s received his diagnosis. The documentary showed a stubborn side to his character, but here there’s only one instance of him getting angry and a few moments of sadness. Apart from that, he soldiers on bravely with a twinkle in his eye. It’s a pity that the script doesn’t allow Eddie Redmayne, who plays Hawking, more of an opportunity to show more of the complexity of the man.
But that’s not to take anything away from his performance. He and Felicity Jones, who plays Jane, are the real reasons for seeing the film. Redmayne’s physical re-creation of the scientist is stunning, but this is no mere impersonation. It’s a physically and emotionally convincing piece of acting and one that’s brought him out of the shadows of British contemporaries like Cumberbatch and Hardy. He’s grabbed the opportunity with both hands and can clearly hold his own against any of the current crop of acting talent, regardless of where they come from.
Felicity Jones is equally impressive as his wife, determined, fiercely loyal and deeply loving. To the outside world, she appears stiff and formal, but it’s all going on underneath the surface. The stress she has to endure because of her husband’s condition nearly breaks her, but she refuses to give up.
To balance the romantic and, ultimately, uplifting tone, there’s some genuinely funny comedy. When Hawking gets his computerised voice, we see him hurtling around the house in his electric wheelchair, pretending to be a Dalek and declaring “exterminate!” What could have been full of pathos is more about the sheer joy of being alive.
Mum’s rating: 8/10
The Theory Of Everything tells us half of Stephen Hawking’s story although, because of its idealised approach, you can’t help but suspect there’s more to the story than we see on the screen. But it’s still a very well-made piece of cinema, warm, inspirational, compassionate – and, of course, romantic. But there are two real reasons to see the film. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.
The Theory Of Everything is released throughout the UK on Thursday, 1 January 2015.
Film critic and radio presenter Freda Cooper has been a movie fan all her life – the best qualification for the job! A contributor to a number of film websites, she also presents her weekly podcast, Talking Pictures, a finalist in the UK Podcasters Awards. Her movie blog, formerly The Coops Review, is now also called Talking Pictures, and was shortlisted at this year’s UK Blog Awards. And you can hear her film reviews every Friday morning on BBC Surrey and BBC Sussex!