The Theory of Everything explores a side of Stephen Hawking most of us have never known and the result is a heartbreaking yet inspirational movie that is nearly flawless in its execution….
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
I know Stephen Hawking, which is to say I know Stephen Hawking’s work.
I’ve read “A Brief History of Time” and other works by him. Watched countless interviews and articles with him and marveled at the way his mind works. He’s also been inspirational in the way he continues to climb mental mountains men without a debilitating neurodegenerative disease are able to do. Hawking is an icon of science and a star in the sky for those who aspire to think and achieve great things.
But for all the times I’ve seen Hawking on television, read his books or contemplated his theories, I can honestly say I never knew much about the man’s personal life. Maybe it’s because I refuse to live in a TMZ world where we have to know everything about everybody’s life right down to the type of toothpaste they prefer to use in the morning or maybe it’s just because I respected Hawking as a scientist and didn’t really need to know about his wife, children and other aspects of his personal life.
The new movie “The Theory of Everything” answers all those questions in one beautifully eloquent theater going experience that is both heartbreaking and heartwarming in many ways.
The film is based on Hawking’s ex-wife’s own book titled “Music to Move the Stars”, which tells the story of Jane Wilde meeting a young academic at Cambridge University in England by the name of Stephen Hawking, long before he was regarded as one of the most accomplished and well read physicists on the planet. The story starts out as two awkward teenagers fumbling to find their way around flirtation and eventually love. Hawking is a genius by every standard set forth by mankind and like many people with an IQ that off the charts, it’s easier to navigate around numbers and theories than people and social skills. Still Hawking tackles it with the same feverish anticipation he does a 10-question quiz his professor hands out one day that he just forgets to do and then ends up blowing everybody away by answering them correctly on the back of a bus schedule.
Hawking is enamored with Jane and she with him and thus begins a whirlwind courtship that blossoms one night at a college dance where they kiss for the first time under the stars. It sounds like a typical love story, but there’s nothing typical about this one at all and that’s what makes the next 90 minutes so gun wrenching and tear inducing as you watch Hawking go from a vibrant and brilliant college student to a tumble-and-fall that ends with a diagnosis that’s essentially a death sentence.
The movie is really about the love between Hawking and his future wife Jane, the children they end up having together and the difficulties that happen when one spouse ends up devoting their entire life to the care of the other. While Stephen’s legs slowly deteriorate and his speech dissipates, Jane can only stand by and offer support while her own education endeavors fall by the wayside. At first there are feelings of anger and resentment and eventually understanding as it all falls into place about how hard life could be in this same exact situation. Don’t worry as serious as the subject matter can be, there are definitely moments of levity and the film does a wonderful job of catching Hawking’s rather unique and quirky sense of humor.
The acting in the movie is superb and should garner at least a few Oscar nominations — most notably at the top of the cast for Eddie Redmayne, who portrays Hawking from the beginning of the movie until the end. The physicality of the part had to be tremendously difficult, but that doesn’t even begin to speak to the levels he has to portray emotions from happiness and laughter to sadness and pain only through a series of facial expressions. Redmayne nails it from beginning to end. The torment Hawking felt when he was just beginning to find his way in the world and then being told he was going to die. The joy he felt holding his baby in his arms and the excitement of finally receiving his doctorate in college. It’s a truly inspiring performance and hopefully this lands Redmayne a lot more parts in future movies.
Felicity Jones does a great job playing his wife Jane and her sweet, tender loving touch will make you crush on her hard, but there are definitely moments later in the film where the thoughts of resentment and disdain creep in although her performance remains flawless throughout. There may not be an actor on the planet that plays subdued better than Charlie Cox right now. From his part on “Boardwalk Empire” to this movie, he’s always calm, cool and collected with a pitch in his voice that never raises above a loud whisper, but he always finds a way to pull it off. His role in ‘The Theory of Everything” is no different.
There are also plenty of familiar faces in the film from David Thewlis (Harry Potter films) playing Hawking’s college mentor to a nearly unrecognizable Harry Lloyd (Viserys Targaryen in “Game of Thrones) as Hawking’s best friend. The supporting pieces are like the knights, the rooks and the bishops on a chess board — none of them are as important as the king and queen, but they are vital to the overall success of the game or in this case the movie.
If there’s one downfall to “The Theory of Everything” it’s the lack of science actually being discussed in the film, but the only reason that is even a factor is because those of us who are fans of Hawking know what he did and wanted to watch it unfold in a dramatic, Hollywood manner. That said, the science of Stephen Hawking is what I already knew. His journey from college student to star crossed lover to married man to father to the brink of divorce were the many sides of Hawking I never even knew about.
These are the parts explored in “The Theory of Everything” and there’s little doubt that this is a near perfect film from start to finish. The highlights are bountiful, especially the many discussions between Hawking and his wife on their differing religious beliefs. It’s not only a poignant movie, but also extremely though povoking
Get to know Stephen Hawking and his wife through this movie and I can guarantee you’ll be an even bigger fan of him when it’s over.
“The Theory of Everything” is in theaters now.