Love has the power to transform. It has the power to rip you shreds and the glue you back together with pieces of itself woven into your own existence. It has the power to change our lives for the better and to change our lives for the worse. It is this life-changing power that ‘The Theory of Everything’ portrays with such a tender delicacy, it leaves you feeling as if a little piece of its sublime beauty has woven itself into your very own being.
This inspiring biopic looks to bring a grace of humanity to the world famous physician Stephen Hawking and looks to unpick his life beyond his scientific discoveries. We are introduced to a young man who, on the face of it, appears to be defined by his intellect, completing graduate studies at the University of Cambridge. However, it is quickly and unexpectedly drawn to our attention that the young Hawking is lazy and laddish, and it seems fitting that Hawking meets his wife-to-be Jane Wilde at a university party.
Eddie Redmayne portrays Hawking with such attentiveness that his deteriorating health due to Motor Neuron Disease appears startlingly real: displaying a performance that has him struggling to walk and cope with the physical and emotional burdens of his condition, we yearn for him to recover as if he were a member of our own family. A performance that is both heart-breaking yet humorous, Redmayne masterfully conveys how behind Hawking’s disabilities, lies a charming and even flirtatious character.
However, ‘The Theory of Everything’ is much a biopic of Jane Wilde as it is about Hawking. We can’t help but feel the upmost respect for Jane whose life is transformed who, at only twenty one years old, commits herself to her lover who was told he only has two years yet to live. Yet over twenty years after his diagnosis, she still stands unwaveringly by his side. Felicity Jones’ uncompromising performance shows that the saying ‘behind every great man lies a great woman in the background’, has never been so true.
However, perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, the couple’s relationship begins to deteriorate along with Hawking’s health. We see her gradually fall in love with her local church choir master and family friend Jonathan. Her unwavering and fulltime support for Hawking’s (which clearly is proving an emotional burden on the young mother of three) means we can’t help but long for her to get with Jonathan and reclaim some normality to her life that has been totally ripped to shreds by her unfaltering love.
If there’s one criticism of ‘The Theory of Everything’ to be made is that it is perhaps a little too perfect: director James Marsh perhaps places a little too much emphasis on the remarkableness of Hawking’s defiance of the odds and Jane’s continuous to support, meaning we don’t always get an insight into the darker side of Hawking’s condition. Indeed, no mention of Hawking’s depression after his diagnosis is mentioned and his infidelity with his full-time nurse Elaine is only eluded too. This, at times, makes the film feel a little bit ‘sugar-coated’ from reality, but overall the quick pace and superb acting by Redmayne in particular means you are too caught up in the beauty of the film to notice (or to care, for that matter).
The real-life Jane Hawking once joked that Physics was Stephen’s ‘mistress’, and the film highlights how passion – not only towards loved ones but our careers too – has the power to resurrect us even in our darkest of hours. Despite Hawking’s loss of mobility and loss of speech, he never lets his disabilities get in the way of his studies. A film that goes far deeper than the theories of black holes and quantum physics, we are forced to question the lengths we are willing to and should go for love. Casting a blanket of normality on a man who often appears inhumanely intelligent, ‘The Theory of Everything’ is everything that a film should be: heart-warming, heart-breaking and thoroughly inspiring.
Words by Juliette Rowsell