Theory of Everything - Review

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Theory of Everything - Review

Name another scientist that has appeared on The Simpsons, The Big Bang Theory, Star Trek TNG, Stargate Atlantis, Futurama and Red Dwarf. Name a scientist whose voice has been recorded for a Pink Floyd track. This is the thing I’ve always loved about the Hawk man. Underneath that vast intellect and unparalleled genius he’s always been such a normal down to Earth guy that couldn’t patronise you or look down on you even if he tried. Someone that’s just happy to speculate with you about the next Star Wars movie as he is about the origins of the Universe. Despite everything he embodies in ideals of triumphing over adversity and human endeavour, above all else Stephen Hawking has and also will be the people’s genius. If 50 years from now my grandchild asked me about him I’d just look them square in the eyes and say “he was just like you, only he dreamed a little bigger”. Now the high roller of modern physics is getting the biopic treatment in Theory of Everything. Here’s a brief history of it.

We follow the man who will become the great Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne - My Week with Marilyn, Les Misérables) from being a brilliant but lazy graduate student, to meeting the love of his life Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones – The Invisible Woman, The Amazing Spiderman 2), to his generation defining work on cosmology. All of which bears the creeping overshadowing of a Stephen’s crippling and progressively terminal diagnosis.

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The immediate and ultimately constant goal here is to show the man behind the machine. We quickly embrace Stephen as a character for his flaws not his intelligence. From an awkward first conversation with Jane to being dragged out of bed by a friend mere minutes before class starts (most of us have been on at least one end of that). Even as time and success take him he’ll still explain things using “tits up” terminology or mechanically crying exterminate with a paper bag on his head. This is none better demonstrated in his isolationist reaction to his mere 2 year bestowed life expectancy; he never feels more relatable than when he tries to shut out everyone in his life unable to overcome this life shattering news. It neither demeans him or makes a deity of him but strikes the perfect character balance thanks to outstanding writing from Anthony McCarten (Death of A Superhero); having worked on the screenplay since. The grasp and understanding of the central characters is outstanding. No attempt is made to portray Hawking as a scientific Mosses (he even advocates that “God must die” in the pursuit of physic). Instead Theory of Everything takes wonderful pleasure in showing us his inspiration. From early conversations with Jane about creation to the simple images that sparked a cosmic storm within him. His earlier lack of enthusiasm only serves to amplify this as we see the difference it makes when he finds something that interests him.

The handling of Stephen’s disability becomes the film’s most compelling feature as we witness the many different stages of progression including the physical and emotional tolls they take on him and his loved ones. Motor Neuron Disease slowly deteriorates the cells control voluntary muscle movements including walking, speaking and even swallowing. Yet it does not affect the brain or the erection as it turns out (that’s right ladies, it’s an involuntary reaction). Through the early days of a seemingly healthy Stephen was see the little tremors creeping in. Then when it finally takes hold in powerful scene to Stephen collapsing to the ground the impact of his head on the pavement is like something out of The Raid. The key milestones are all flagged and examined from the total loss of independence as limb movement dries up; the transition from canes to wheelchair and of course the infamous loss of voice. We even get some staggering time between vocal loss and the arrival to his pioneering speaking technology when he’s reduced to a blinking colour coded manner of crudely spelling out words. We witness many moments when we feel he has every right to give up (and occasionally does) only to be compelled as finds the strength in whatever’s left of his muscles to going with his life and his work.

Yet alongside all this so too is Jane’s story told in way’s many will less expect. In fact the story is adapted directly from her memoires “Travelling to Infinity” and many story sections focus on her emotions. As their family grows while her husband physically deteriorates we see and feel the ever growing placed upon her and the ways in which she takes solace. Even simple care help is financially against them (in Stephen’s own words, he’s not a rock star) and when it comes in the form of Widower choir leader Jonathan (Stardust, Boardwalk Empire) the growing emotional connection between the pair throws everything into quantum complexity. Many questions as to their relationship are left deliberately open for speculation in a very curious manner. Yet even if suspicions do swing against Jane you can never dislike her for both the continual hardships of her life and the absolutely magical performance from Felicity Jones.

Indeed Theory of Everything is a universe of two all encompassing acting forces in Redmayne and Jones. Through thick and thin the pair brings a light and warmth to their characters that most importantly of all, keeps the feeling of entertainment rather than informant. They keep the film feeling like a film rather than a Discovery Channel dramatisation. They’re both generating a lot of awards buzz and could well be leading the British charge at the Oscars. Redmayne goes all out in adopting in adopting the ever constricting physical mannerisms of the still chair dweller we now know. Jones is frequently mesmerising with the effortless she conveys her feelings; almost like she has her own speaking computer. Elsewhere Cox makes an enjoyable 3rd wheel in his parts. David Thewlis (Harry Potter, The Zero Theorem) utterly delights as Stephen’s inspirational professor and finally Harry Lloyd (Game of Thrones, The Riot Club) does a great turn as Hawking’s (fictional) best friend Brian.

So Theory of Everything may just be the most light and enjoyable telling of a serious subject matter in recent years. A film bursting with more compassion and enthral than an exploding black hole, the largely untold story behind the greatest man ever to subscribe to Penthouse and a truly outstanding piece of British cinema. The film making gods do not play dice; see this film.

Recommended for all fans varied dramas encompassing both love and laughs, any of the 10+ million Hawking book owners and anyone that’s ever wondered why peas always role away from potatoes on the plate.