A foot gives way. A body pitches forward. And the entire audience flinches as Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) hits the floor.
The Theory of Everything looks at the young life of Hawking as he finds out about the illness that will have him defying the odds for the rest of his life. Directed by James Marsh and based on the book by Jane Hawking, the film is an emotional, moving and inspiring one.
As a young man, Hawking’s biggest worries is working out what he wants the focus of his dissertation to be and how to ask Jane (Felicity Jones) to the May dance when he doesn’t, in actual fact, dance. But as his body begins to betray him and Hawking is only given two years to live, everything becomes more meaningful. Coaxed out of self-isolation by Jane, Hawking tries to live life to the full – prove his thesis, have a family, live a normal life – while his body slowly deteriorates and betrays him.
The fact that the audience are familiar with his story and know just how many times he has defied the odds doesn’t detract from the film whatsoever. Redmayne is certainly a worthy winner of the Oscar award for best leading actor. His performance as Hawking is exceptional, even when the illness has taken hold and he can no longer speak or move on his own. Whether it the scenes of him hospitalised, or declaring the wheelchair will be temporary, Redmayne does credit to an extraordinary man as his performance touches the heart of the audience.
As much her story as Hawking’s, Jane is also brilliant played by Jones. Her level of emotions matches Redmayne’s as she struggles to be a carer, a wife and a mother, all on her own with a husband who is reluctant to admit they need assistance. The supporting performances from Harry Lloyd, David Thewlis and Maxine Peak also realistically show the reactions of the loved ones of Hawking as the extent of his illness is made known.
The film is a beautiful one. From the early shots of Hawking and Jane dancing by the river to Hawking’s daydream of being able to stand and pick up a pen, the scenes tug at the heartstrings and make you feel everything the family had to go through. But despite the content, it is not a heavy going on. Hawking’s wit provides much needed relief the whole way through, and the smiles are genuine considering this is what he is like as a person rather than being just scripted.
Marsh is well-versed in shooting documentaries. But he makes something so much more with The Theory of Everything, a story of love and determination when the odds are stacked against you. He inspires not sympathy for Hawking, not even empathy but respect. This is a man who has never given up no matter what the world has thrown at him, and the film handles his life with great dignity suited to his character. A must-see for all.