2015 is turning into a fine year for film and it seems that The Theory of Everything is keeping up the good work. Following the life of Stephen Hawking ‘The Theory of Everything’ chronicles the key points in his life, starting at his diagnosis during his university years and finishing almost in the present day.
Based on the book written by Hawking’s first wife Jane the film is more of a love story than anything else. We watch as the two meet, fall in love, the news of Hawking’s life threatening illness and so on.
This, however, comes across as a disadvantage. The film focuses so heavily on the relationship between Hawking and Jane that Stephen’s motor neurone disease gets pushed to the sidelines, even though it is one of the defining characteristics of Hawking himself. The film jumps from key points in the couples lives, the only indication being the appearance of children and their sudden ageing, and this is quite jarring. At the beginning of the film Hawking is only given two years to live yet, as we all know, he surpasses this. However this incredible medical feat is not mentioned again throughout the entire film. The film assumes that we as the audience know that he is still alive and so spends no time explaining how it is Hawking is thankfully still alive to this day. Even a quick sentence from a doctor declaring that they have no idea would see to this, yet unfortunately it is not included. Years go by and we watch Hawking degrade along with the relationship with his wife.
The plot can only be described as okay, this is due to the nature of the film. It is a biopic and even with Hawking’s humorous super-mechenoid shenanigans in various episodes of The Simpsons, his life is not so thrilling in terms of viewer excitement. This puts a heavy weight on the actors of the piece and this is where the film shines brighter than almost every biopic I have ever seen.
Eddie Redmayne, most famous for playing Marius in the recent Les Miserables film, plays Hawking and shows us some of the single greatest acting there has ever been. Redmayne trained for four months with a dancer to learn how to control his body, met 40 people with MND, kept track of how Hawking’s muscles declined and remained motionless between takes to the point where an osteopath informed him that he had altered the alignment of his spine; and the result is simply breathtaking.
His portrayal is simply stunning, so much so that even Stephen Hawking himself stated that for parts of the film he forgot that he was watching an actor and believed the footage to be of himself, even having a tear wiped away during one of the more emotional scenes.
Redmayne’s true to life acting is the key to this films success. However, as stated earlier, the film is simply okay. The choice to limit the information on MND was a mistake, the jumps between key events makes the film feel rushed even with its two hour run time and the choice to include a dream sequence near the end of the film, a scene that I understand why it was included but hate that it was, almost completely ruins the character portrayal that the film had spent so long setting up. The scene in question forces the audience to take a step back out of the world that we have invested the last few hours in, makes us remember that it is indeed a film that we are watching and that Redmayne is simply an actor playing Hawking. If the sequence was the finale of the film then it could almost be excused, however when the dream is over we are treated to another five minutes of the film. The final five minutes pack a serious amount of weight, being a good conclusion fitting with the film as a whole, however the emotional impact is severely lessoned by the events of the dream sequence. Had the sequence not occurred I would have been in floods of tears rather than simply wiping away the single bit of moisture that ran down my face.
So the film as a whole, whilst not being the most thrilling or informative, is incredible simply because of Eddie Redmayne. Even with the downsides listed above it is still a very good film and worthy of its place alongside Birdman as a fantastic 2015 film.
7.5 / 10