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Film Review: The Theory of Everything (2014)




Cornwall-born director James Marsh brings the emotional, inspiring and incredible story of Stephen and Jane Hawking’s life together to the big screen - and it is marvellous. Most people, if not everybody, have heard of Stephen Hawking; his book ‘A Brief History of Time’; and his devastating diagnosis of motor neurone disease. But few knew of his life before the disability, and his life with his devoted wife. The Theory of Everything tells the story of Stephen and Jane’s journey through life, and their incredible achievements, both academic and personal.

Eddie Redmayne is entirely deserving of his Oscar in his role. Stephen Hawking said it was like watching himself on screen. Redmayne spent hours contorting his face and working his spine into an uncomfortable posture in order to portray the real effects of the disease. Towards the end, Stephen’s illness leaves him unable to speak and unable to move his facial muscles, yet Eddie Redmayne’s eyes tell us his emotions with ease. It is heartbreaking to see, and even more heartbreaking to know this is based on a real man.

Felicity Jones plays Jane Hawking, Stephen's devoted wife. Jones plays this part exceptionally and seemingly effortlessly, and it’s almost as if she is feeling everything Jane felt, becoming the character of Jane, and displaying every emotion with a unique quality. She certainly is not sidelined by Redmayne; she is just as important to this story as he is. They changed each other’s worlds. Based on Jane Hawking’s book, "Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen”, Felicity’s portrayal sparks questions we may not originally have thought of. Through her performance we can truly see just how much Jane loved Stephen through everything.

My only criticism is that we didn’t get to see more of Emily Watson as Jane’s mother. I can see the story is about Stephen and Jane, but I would have thought her mother would have had a bigger role and been introduced a little earlier in the story. We only see her in a flying visit that prompts Jane to go along to the church choir and inevitably meet Jonathan, played by Charlie Cox. The character of Jonathan is interesting. He has no underlying intentions and genuinely wants to help the Hawking family to relieve his own personal loss and feelings. What evolves from this friendly nature cannot be criticised, does not taint his helpful persona, and he remains a kind-hearted constant throughout the film.

Cinematographer Benoît Delhomme has created a dream-like masterpiece. Every scene is beautifully shot, with so much precision in the colours and lighting. With every eloquent transition in the story comes a new projection of emotional quality. If no words were spoken, the look and feel of the film portrays the undying emotion. Combined with the incredible score and facial expressions of the actors, the gentle tugging on the heart strings becomes strained. But with Anthony McCarten’s writing, the characters come alive; they look, feel and sound real with their thought-provoking, heart-wrenching, tearful words. And those strained heart strings have snapped.

Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score is certainly worth a mention. “The four-note motif is deconstructed, played in a minor mode to break it up,” Jóhann said when asked about the four-note piano ostinato that plays throughout the film’s score. In simpler terms, the recurring motif allows a sense of cyclical narrative. Despite the couple’s controversial divorce in 1990, they still had three children together, and they still had 25 years of marriage. Even though this is a sad outcome, the ending is happy and ends with a positive note, reflected by the score. With a range of orchestral instruments perfectly timed throughout, much of the emotion displayed by the actors is heightened by this magical score.

Everything about this film is perfect. The acting, the story, the script, the score, the look. This is not a story of a man with an illness who happens to be good at physics. This is the story of a man who accomplishes remarkable scientific theories with the support of his devoted wife. Some people have said this film doesn’t touch upon the specific physics in his life, but it is simplified for us normal people to understand. And the story is not about what his theories are. It is about how, despite a two year life expectancy, he lived to think up such incredible theories with the support of his wife.

 10/10. Simultaneously heart-breaking and fulfilling. A masterpiece in every aspect.


Written by April Williams

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