Eddie Redmayne completely encompasses Hawking’s characteristics, in the new bio-pic on Stephen Hawking, The Theory of Everything (2014).
Theory Everything 3Based on the real life story of the famed, theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking; the movie deals with; his success as a theoretical physicist, his struggle with the motor neuron disease, and of course his relationship with his wife, Jane Wilde Hawking, who stood by him through thick and thin, even when they fell out of love with each other. Without Jane Hawking’s strength backing him, he might have given up on life completely, and might not have achieved as much as he has today. Just as much as how great Stephen Hawking is, his first wife deserves acknowledgement too, for constantly encouraging him, and never letting him be disheartened, due to his disability. James Marsh’s directorial bio-pic, The Theory of Everything (2014), is based on the memoir, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, by Jane Wilde Hawking.

The film begins with, when Stephen Hawking (Redmayne); aged 21, a PhD student of astrophysics; first set eyes on his future bride, Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones), in 1963. Their subsequent courtship, Hawking excelling in mathematics and physics, his keen interest in creation of the universe, Hawking’s indecisiveness, as to what his final thesis should be on, et al. This early segment of The Theory of Everything, had me a tad bored, especially the romantic angle. I still felt it was a pretty good ‘love story’, but didn’t feel that it was that great. But then Hawking is diagnosed with the motor neuron disease, and the movie starts to ascend into being one of the best movies ever made. The Theory of Everything, is a very touching portrayal of Hawking’s struggle with this disease, throughout his life, the deterioration of his health, his rise to fame, and the support of his wife and close friends, who constantly encourage him, never letting him give up or feel dejected.

Left: The real Hawking's on their wedding day. Right: The lead actors playing the Hawking's in the movie.

Left: The real Hawking’s on their wedding day.
Right: The lead actors playing the Hawking’s in the movie.

Initially, when Hawking first hears that he’s been diagnosed with the motor neuron disease, it makes him fall into a deep depression and completely lose hope, especially since he was given only two years to live. Yet, it’s Jane, as shown in the movie, who pulls him up, telling him if he has only two years to live to ‘lets make the best of it’ (or something on those lines), and marries him, despite being aware that there might not be a future for them together. That’s true determination, especially from Jane. Instead of the initial diagnosis, of only a couple of years of married life, they end up creating three kids, Stephen Hawking achieves recognition in the field of popular science, with 50 years of ongoing success, till date, and ends up being one the most celebrated theoretical physicists, of the 20th and 21st century. Of course, their life together hasn’t been easy. As much as it has been hard for Stephen Hawking, it’s been just as much a struggle for Jane. We also see how she suffered herself, sacrificing her whole life, taking care of him, falling out of love, not being able to get her own PhD thesis done; yet she never easily backs down; i.e. until he falls for a nurse, who can take care of him, Elaine Mason (Maxine Peake). Even after the couple separate, they remain good friends, and she continued to support him through his health problems and work.

James Marsh has brought out an incredible bio-pic, spanning approximately 25 years, about a great individual, who has achieved so much, despite going through such a grave disability. Stephen Hawking truly lived, defying death, and doing something really brilliant with his brain, the only part of his system not affected by the motor neuron disease. Eddie Redmayne does an exceptional job, that he practically becomes Hawking, in fact Redmayne is Hawking. Felicity Jones brings out an exemplary performance as the strength behind Hawking’s survival. David Thewlis is a perfect fit as Hawking’s professor, Dr. Dennis W. Sciama, one of the fathers of modern cosmology. Charlie Cox is really likable as the kindly gentleman, a choirmaster, who selflessly helps the Hawking family, and meanwhile falls for Jane Hawking, but yet is decent enough not pursue it. Harry Lloyd is really good as Hawking’s roommate at Cambridge, and best friend, who proves to be a truly good buddy to Hawking, supporting him throughout. And Maxine Peake fits in perfectly as Elaine Mason, Hawking’s future second wife.

Of course the movie is also very aesthetically filmed. I especially love the scene at the spring ball, Cambridge May Ball, where Hawking explains to the love of his life, the reason why the whites of the gents shirts tend to glow in the dark. And they sure do glow. Love the cinematography capturing the beautiful locations of the historically significant architectural landscapes of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Stephen Hawking and Jane Wilde Hawking with actors Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.

Stephen Hawking and Jane Wilde Hawking with actors Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.

Though an excellent movie, the film does have less to do with Hawking’s accomplishments, his theory on space and time, the black holes emitting radiation, general relativity and quantum mechanics. The Theory of Everything focuses less on his theoretical predictions, and more to do with his disease and life with his wife. Though I don’t really mind that, I would like to see a movie which incorporates his theoretical assessments. Maybe a surreal film, merging reality with his scientific brainchild. That would make for a spectacular viewing. Yet, I did love this biographical drama as well.

I roughly went through Stephen Hawking’s book, A Brief History of Time, back in 1996, as a Freshman, in Delhi University. It was a hit back in New Delhi, India, those days. It explained Hawking’s theory on the Big Bang, Black Holes et al. Though I found it intriguing, I was a bit too young, at the time, to get in too deeply into the book. Nor did I get to complete it. I enjoyed it more, because I was aware of who Hawking’s was, rather than an actual interest in cosmology, itself.

The Theory of Everything has been nominated for five Oscars, at 87th Annual Academy Awards, to be held later this month, including for ‘Best Picture’, ‘Best Actor’ and ‘Best Actress’. When it comes to the ‘Best Picture’, I feel Richard Linklater’s Boyhood (2014) should take home the trophy. Boyhood was a uniquely excellent movie, that took 12 years to make (See my post In-flight Entertainment from November 2014). But when it comes to ‘Best Actor’, nothing could compare to Eddie Redmayne’s powerful performance. I haven’t heard of any prosthetic makeup being used to make Eddie Redmayne look more like Stephen Hawking, yet Redmayne felt every bit the famed theoretical physicist. That how great an actor Redmayne has proved to be. Stephen Hawking provided his ‘Equalizer Computerized Voice Synthesizer’, to be used in the movie.

The Theory of Everything, is also nominated for ‘Best Original Musical Score’ to composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. Though brilliant, I believe Hans Zimmer (who too is nominated), should bag this award, for his superb score, for Interstellar (2014). Also see my post The Big Screen – Films Down Under from November 2014.

Never Give Up: Felicity Jones as Jane Wilde Hawking in a scene from The Theory of Everything (2014)

Never Give Up: Felicity Jones as Jane Wilde Hawking in a scene from The Theory of Everything (2014)

Jane Hawking was initially apprehensive, about letting them make a movie, based on her book. After three years of convincing the ex-Mrs. Hawking, she finally gave in. Yet Jane Hawking requested that there be no love making scenes between them, shown on screen. Her request was honoured. At a screening of the film, Stephen Hawking, had a nurse wipe off a tear from his cheek.

I luckily got to watch The Theory of Everything on the Big Screen, on the 1st of February, 2015. Such movies are never really shown here, they don’t have a market for it. Luckily it was shown in a new cinema here, a rarity. Of course it was one of those luxurious film halls (luxurious by here’s standards that is), with comfortable reclining seats, with very few seats, and fewer people, even on a Sunday afternoon. The niche market for this particular movie, in this country (this cinema was the only place, in the whole country, this movie was shown, and for a limited amount of time), consisted of only five people, including me and a friend of mine. That Sunday afternoon at least.

The Theory of Everything (2014) Excellent !!!!! 10/10!!!!!  

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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