The Theory of Everything is a British biographical romantic drama directed by James Marsh with a screenplay, adapted from Jane Wilde Hawking’s memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, by Anthony McCarten. The film follows the romantic relationship of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his ex-wife Jane Wilde Hawking (Felicity Jones)—it examines the intricacies of their love story as Stephen embarks on the greatest scientific discoveries of his illustrious career in the wake of his shocking diagnosis of motor neuron disease.
This movie is magnificent. I was completely unaware of James Marsh’s previous work, but after researching his career in film, The Theory of Everything does a complete 180° from his usual work. Marsh made his career as a documentarian—in fact, he won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature for his film Man on Wire (2008). Even though he is a critically acclaimed documentarian, I sure hope he continues to venture into films like The Theory of Everything because he has created a superlative, emotionally evocative drama. This film thrives off of its supreme acting (Redmayne and Jones were unbelievable—I will get to them soon), and Marsh excels in his ardent direction of his two stars. Anthony McCarten also delivers an exceptional screenplay that gives the film’s stars plenty to work with during their scenes. It is adapted from Jane Wilde Hawking’s memoir about her life with ex-husband Stephen, and this would tend to imply that the story (which inherently includes their separation) might be biased in her favor; however, McCarten pens the story from a more neutral perspective, and this allows the viewer to come to his/her own conclusion regarding Stephen and Jane’s history.
Although The Theory of Everything was met with generally universal acclaim, some critics complained about the fact that the film explores romanticism more so than the scientific greatness of Stephen Hawking’s life. However, this exploration of Hawking’s life is a substantial reason why I loved this movie so much. Biopics are great—I really do enjoy them; but they can get monotonous quickly as they attempt to cover every single aspect of someone’s life. That is why I so greatly enjoyed Marsh and McCarten’s storytelling point of view. With such an esteemed scientific career, Hawking’s tale could have easily been made into a 2 ½-hour illustration of his theoretical findings—but instead, The Theory of Everything makes Hawking’s career work the backdrop for a tried-and-true love story. This is a part of Stephen Hawking’s life that does not get much exposure; in fact, I knew nothing of this chapter in Hawking’s story. The depiction of Hawking and Wilde meeting for the first time, dancing under the stars, and falling in love is unmistakably beautiful—with Marsh’s direction and cinematographer Benoît Delhomme’s photography, the delineation of this emotionally charged pas de deux is charming beyond words.
The most remarkable element of The Theory of Everything is its acting prowess. The story is marvelous, the direction is excellent, the cinematography is affecting, and the musical score is quite possibly the greatest in recent memory, but the acting steals the show. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones deliver two of 2014’s most poignant performances. Eddie Redmayne is the odds-on favorite to take home the Oscar for Best Actor this year (he definitely has my vote—stay tuned this week for more on that), and an honor of this stature is most deserved. An underrated aspect of Redmayne’s portrayal of Hawking is in the first third of the film (before the motor neuron disease begins to affect Hawking’s physical abilities). Redmayne breathes into Hawking an unparalleled charm, and the mix of effervescent humor with his incomparable intellect allows Redmayne to make the brainy scientist seem more relatable to the average person. But as the hype suggests, Redmayne earns his keep via his incredibly realistic depiction of Hawking during his life post-diagnosis—Redmayne packs a memorable punch, akin to Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance in My Left Foot. He manages Hawking’s real-life mannerisms almost effortlessly, and with every bodily hunch and contortion, Redmayne evokes a visceral likeness to the British theorist in ways never thought possible. Redmayne’s performance is a complete inhabitation, and it will go down film history as one of cinema’s most astounding performances.
Felicity Jones also gives a notable performance in her role as Jane Wilde-Hawking. Her performance will likely get overlooked in years to come, as Redmayne clearly made the biggest mark, but I have always believed in Jones’s instinctive portrayal of Hawking’s dedicated wife—I applaud the Academy for rewarding her with an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Given that the film centers on the love story of Jane and Stephen, Jones is given plenty of screen time—she makes the most of her opportunities. Jones succeeds in the last two-thirds of the film as a wife living a conflicted life of love and distress (given the circumstances that she and Stephen have been thrust into with the ALS diagnosis), and with raw emotion, she brilliantly reveals the fateful complexities of a once ordinary relationship. In the first third, however, I loved Felicity Jones the most. The portrayal of the utter innocence of love between Hawking and Wilde is charming, and Jones absolutely nails the role of a girl besotted with adoration for Stephen—she does not do so in a heavy-handed way, instead portraying Jane with more level-headed practicality. The Theory of Everything is rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and suggestive material.
The Theory of Everything trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Salz7uGp72c
Academy Award nominations for The Theory of Everything:
Best Picture (Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, and Anthony McCarten, producers)
Best Actor (Eddie Redmayne)
Best Actress (Felicity Jones)
Best Original Score (Jóhann Jóhannsson)
Best Adapted Screenplay (Anthony McCarten)
Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of 2014:
- Blue Ruin
- American Sniper
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Gone Girl
- The Lego Movie