“There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.”
Directed by: James Marsh
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox
Starring Eddie Redmayne (Les Misérables) and Felicity Jones (The Amazing Spider-Man 2), this is the extraordinary story of one of the world’s greatest living minds, the renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, who falls deeply in love with fellow Cambridge student Jane Wilde. Once a healthy, active young man, Hawking received an earth-shattering diagnosis at 21 years of age. With Jane fighting tirelessly by his side, Stephen embarks on his most ambitious scientific work, studying the very thing he now has precious little of – time. Together, they defy impossible odds, breaking new ground in medicine and science, and achieving more than they could ever have dreamed.
Time. Mysterious, wonderful, fleeting and cruel in equal measures. Ironically, once Hawking’s illness takes hold, it’s time – the very thing that he studied in depth as a burgeoning astrophysicist – that deteriorates his body. Spanning the course of his formative years through to the release of his famous book ‘A Brief History of Time’ and all the way up to near present, the film is punctuated through each course of events by a new gruelling twist in Hawking’s debilitating illness. Though the film relies heavily on the performance of its lead Eddie Redmayne, he fortunately has both the acting nous to pull it off effectively and the empathy to make Hawking’s struggle relatable.
His performance really is a thing of beauty – deeply moving and convincing in his portrayal of Hawking’s swift life changing turn of health, yet uplifting and empowering, never allowing Hawking to become a figure of pity. Though his body isn’t capable of even the smallest of day to day tasks his mind remains as sharp as ever, with Redmayne portraying this with great subtlety and believability. It’s a remarkable performance which alone makes the film worthy of investment.
But he’s not, however, on his own when it comes to convincing displays of acting chops, with Felicity Jones also excelling in her role as Hawking’s wife, friend and carer. She is perhaps as much the hero of the film as Hawking, selfless as she is in the care of her husband. Her struggles are plain to see, but Jones makes her a deeply likeable character much as Redmayne does with Hawking.
Oddly for a film that drills home the message that time is fleeting it can feel a touch sluggish on occasion, with plot points that have already been made plenty clear repeating themselves – pacing was one of the few issues with director James Marsh’s debut Wisconsin Death Trip (1999), and it rears its head here again – but also like his debut film it’s very much a success visually, with the rich and vibrant colours of Cambridge adding an air of romanticism.
Naysayers may lament the film’s loose and easy approach to the more detailed aspects of Hawking’s scientific studies, but ultimately it’s less about these achievements than those in his personal life. He has loved, lived, and defied time itself. Not bad at all for a man who was only meant to have two years left to live.
Impeccably performed and worthy of whole hearted recommendation on the basis of Eddie Redmayne’s career defining performance alone, A Theory of Everything is a moving portrayal of an incredible man’s life.
Rating (out of 5):