Synopsis: A look at the relationship between the famous physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife, Jane.
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, David Thewlis, Emily Watson, Charlie Cox, Simon McBurney
Director: James Marsh
Running Length: 113 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: At the center of The Theory of Everything is a Hallmark Hall of Fame film just dying to get out. It seems to have all the ingredients of those celebrated television movies that pile on the need for Kleenex with each successive commercial break. You have the story of resilience against all odds, the power of love against all odds, and the will to effect positive change…against all odds. Each of these pieces is covered at some point or another in Anthony McCarten’s workmanlike script and while less cynical audiences will easily gobble up this bit of fluff, I found it hard to let myself get sucked into that blackhole of saccharine.
So why the relatively high rating, you may ask? Well, it’s because what The Theory of Everything has (in addition to a parade of scenes that feel as if they should end with the populace onscreen starting a slow-clap that ends in a rousing furor of applause) is not one but two award-worthy performances that easily make the film worth recommending.
As physicist Stephen Hawking, Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables) takes us from the wallflower schoolboy with a knack for solving impossible mathematical equations all the way through to the man that battles a degenerative nerve disease that leaves him unable to walk or talk. It’s a tricky performance that Redmayne carefully navigates, giving us a look at not only the effect the disease has on Hawking’s body but on his spirit. Twisted limbs and a skewed stance was likely murder on Redmayne’s body but the effect is totally believable on screen.
Though she has no physical ailments to portray, as Jane Hawking young Felicity Jones (The Amazing Spider-Man 2) has possibly an even more difficult character to bring to life. I think it’s easy for audiences to see a disability on screen and be cued into what’s happening under the surface but Jane’s resolve to stand by her man is colored with sacrifice but never resentment. Take an early scene where Jane makes it clear that she expects the boy she loves to not give up in the face of his diagnosis and play, of all things, croquet. In one powerhouse shot we see her see him as he struggles but soldiers on and her face tells us she knows what the years to come will bring…and the precise moment when she goes all-in for her love. It’s maybe one of the best scenes in any movie from 2014.
Even with these two wonderful performances the film never strikes a deep chord, though it does manage to pack in quite a lot concerning the lives of the couple in less than two hours. Depending on how you look at it, the film has either a happy or a sad ending and being the glass half full kinda guy I am I chose to see the moments that book-end the biopic as a mature, honest, realization of the Hawkings. I just wish as a whole the film was as complete as the performances from Redmayne and Jones.