Oscar-winning documentary-maker James Marsh has given Stephen Hawking’s life the big screen treatment with the unconventional love story, The Theory of Everything. Adapted from the memoirs of Jane Hawking, the world renowned physicists first wife, the film focuses on their relationship which began after meeting at Cambridge University in the 1960s. Going beyond the science, it gives us a glimpse of what life was like for the Hawking’s as they tried to forge a future together following Stephen’s Motor Neurone Disease diagnosis at 21-years-old.
With his geeky charm and crooked glasses, PhD student, Stephen (Eddie Redmayne), charmed the posh socks off of languages student, Jane Wilde. Their relationship blossomed in a fairly conventional manner to begin with: the parties, the day trips, the dancing… but following Hawking’s devastating diagnosis with the deadly neurological illness, their lives became far from ordinary. The A Brief History of Time author has defied the odds, both professionally and professionally, for over half a century, and although the world is fully aware of Hawking the celebrity, few know of him beyond the science and chair.
It is not the most controversial, nor groundbreaking of films, and at times certain elements are too briefly touched upon, but at least Marsh does not portray either protagonist as, thankfully, overly saintly. Both are good people faced with their own challenges, but are, like everyone else, not exempt from the wrath of temptation. Jane’s flirtation with carer Jonathan Hellye (Charlie Cox) makes for intriguing (and, at times, distracting) viewing, whilst Stephen’s own relationship with his future wife, Elaine Mason (Maxine Peake), is subtly touched upon towards the close of proceedings. It is here, when their marriage begins to unravel, that the story really comes alive, leaving behind the timidity which sometimes plagued the first half of Marsh’s adaptation.
Amongst the bookies favourites for an Oscar win, Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of the man himself is nothing short of superb. A career best performance which captured Hawking’s mannerisms and personality – from the cheeky smile and eyebrow raise to the sharp wit – expertly. Redmayne deserves all the plaudits he has been receiving, but the excellent Felicity Jones’ portrayal of Jane, as she moved through the motions of their marriage – from love, frustration, and, eventually, a sense of resentment, is thoroughly engrossing, making for some of the most powerful scenes of the film. Together, as an on-screen pairing, they are the most adorable couple who you can not help but root for. The strength of the two performances, equally as compelling, rich and powerful – both individually and collectively – make up for the short-comings of, at times, a laboured story.