D: James Marsh. W: Anthony McCarten. DP: Benoît Delhomme. Starring: Eddie Redmayne/Felicity Jones/Charlie Cox/David Thewlis/Emily Watson/Maxine Peake/Harry Lloyd/Simon McBurney. (based on Jane Hawking’s book, Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen)
This winter film season is flush with dealing with the dueling biopics. The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game follow two great British minds who not only broke mathematical boundaries, but experienced incredibly challenges in their personal lives. The irony being that Benedict Cumberbatch already played Hawking, in a 2004 BBC television movie simply entitled Hawking. It is hard not to compare the two now, but in future years they are surely to develop singularity.
The Theory of Everything is adapted from Jane Hawking’s own book about her life with famous physicist Stephen Hawking. A biopic yes, but one that is structured around a relationship that would define and contribute to Hawking’s work. Crippled by ALS or Lou Ghehrig’s disease while a Cambridge PHD student, Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is given two years to live. Regardless his work and relationship with Jane (Felicity Jones) continues to much success, though not with out painful challenges.
Redmayne, known mostly for 2012’s Les Miserables and 2011’s My Week With Marilyn, is unforgettable here. The manipulation and control of his body is impressive, but his sense of grace and humor allows the character to feel alive and three dimensional. His large eyes and mouth are advantageous here so that Stephen does not seem lost behind glasses or gadgets. Redmayne’s chemistry with Jane played by Felicity Jones (2013’s The Invisible Woman, 2011’s Like Crazy) draws the emotional palette of the film. Jones’ carries her character with poise that travels through the years of Jane’s life well. The duo is supported well by a nice turns by Charlie Cox as their friend Jonathan and Harry Lloyd as Hawking’s Cambridge chum.
Throughout the film director James Marsh and cinematographer Benoît Delhomme use a liberal amount of close ups. The inflections of Redmayne’s face are charted and gives the narrative an intensely intimate quality to it. A few times a sepia tone or filter is used giving some sequences the look of a home video, which is a unique touch. However, the sort of rehash or film in sixty seconds montage at the end is silly and reductive. Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score is incredibly beautiful, but maybe used a bit too heavily in some scenes.
The Theory of Everything is not about science or brilliance or perseverance or love, but rather that combination that generates hope. Although there is not anything game changing about the film as a whole, it’s certainly an engaging and moving story that is well acted.