By Sarah Stukan
Print Managing Editor
Dr. Stephen Hawking’s work in the field of physics has made him a fixture of popular culture. In The Theory of Everything, however, director James Marsh crafts an emotionally charged examination of Hawking’s life through the chemistry created by his lead actor and actress.
Hawking’s biopic depicts him as a man struggling with illness and simultaneously exploring his ideas in full. While still a graduate student at Cambridge University, Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) learns he has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a motor neuron disorder. Given merely two years to live, he completes his doctorate and weds fellow graduate student Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones).
The Theory of Everything is ultimately the portrait of a marriage. Jane falls in love with Hawking when he is charmingly gawky, supremely intellectual, and setting out to fathom the origin of the universe and of time. Redmayne’s performance is remarkable and Oscar-worthy; the actor put in months of preparation to recreate Hawking’s painful stages of debilitation. Even when he is forced to communicate his character’s feelings almost entirely through his eyes, Redmayne successfully conveys both Hawking’s wit and intuition. Jones, similarly, is poignant in presenting how the marriage leaves both Jane and Stephen unfulfilled.
The substance of Hawking’s work is compressed into a few scenes where he and his fellow physicists present diagrams on tables and scribble equations onto chalkboards. Given that the emphasis of The Theory of Everything is the daunting and unusual complications the couple faced, however, the film still triumphs as a celebration of life in all of its beauty and sadness.
Driven by its polished acting, The Theory of Everything is an insightful love story of a brilliant man and his equally courageous counterpart. If one judges a film by the emotion that it elicits, then The Theory of Everything should be considered an unqualified success.
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