The Theory Of Everything (2015) Capsule Review
A rather ambitious title don’t you think? A little presumptuous perhaps? Then again I guess when you’re telling the tale of one of the genuine intellectual genius of our time you can be just a little audacious. The Theory of Everything is the story of Professor Stephen Hawking, his early Cambridge based academic career before he was afflicted with motor neuron disease, documenting his incredible achievements in his chosen field of theoretical physics calibrated with the interpersonal triumphs and tribulations with his first wife Janet Hawking. It’s the latter that distinguishes this take on Hawking’s life from the other material on the Einstein of our time, I recall seeing a BBC2 drama on his early life around a decade ago (and it’s only just dropped that it was Cumberbatch in that initial role), but taking Jane’s biography Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen as the primary source material spins the planets in a different alignment. The film is as much Jane’s as Stephen’s story concerning their life together, actually making this very much a two-handed piece – Eddie Redmayne as Hawkings and Felicity Jones as Jane – which has already reached for the stars in the form of not one but two prestigious acting nominations at this years Oscars. Here’s an early clip;
You’d have to have a black hole for a heart not to be frequently moved by this tasteful, slightly sedate yet genuinely moving orbit around Stephen Hawking’s fascinating life, the inspirational and indomitable overcoming of obstacles which could easily have devolved into saccharine idolatry. You couldn’t write the intrinsic drama as non-fiction without the accusation of trite manipulation, the greatest intellect of his generation (and maybe the century) physically imprisoned and struck down in its prime. Yet despite these physical obstacles he retains his fearsome inquisition, trapped in a wilting body a mind that demands and manages to soar. If I have one minor gripe is that the film, well, it isn’t very cinematic, like that BBC drama I think you could lop off the 2:35 edges, throw this into 16:9 ratio and chuck it on BBC HD and not lose a great deal of visual dexterity. It is however a film of stellar performances, from Redmayne’s sympathetic and incredible physical transformation to Jones pulsar yet diminishing compassion, charting the physical, mental and emotional balance of raising children, a very demanding partner and her own desires for intellectual independence. The Theory Of Everything is one of those handsomely mounted and reverently played biographical dramas that we British so easily seem to produce in the vein as The Kings Speech or the similarly praised The Imitation Game, equipped with a galactic heart of gold that might but probably won’t pocket a few statuettes come February 22nd;
So that’s the first of our Oscar takedowns completed, now pray for me gentle reader as I brave the right-wing horror of American Sniper which has had quite the opening weekend and stirred a hornets nest of controversy, in all honesty I can’t say I’m looking forward to this one but that’s the discipline…..