Film: ‘The Theory of Everything’; Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, David Thewlis, Emily Watson, Charlie Cox, Simon McBurney and Maxine Peake; Director: James Marsh
The world famous physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking needs no introduction. Hawking fundamentally changed our understanding of black holes, quantum mechanics, and relativity, all the while popularising science with his best-selling book, ‘A Brief History of Time’.
Apart from his academic brilliance, what makes Hawking a subject for an inspiring biopic is his unfathomable spirit which is imprisoned in his dysfunctional body.
‘The Theory of Everything’ is essentially a love story, adapted from the memoir of Hawking's first wife, Jane Wilde.
The narration in a linear format is simplistic and rolls on from the campus of Cambridge in 1963, where Stephen, a floppy-haired and thickly bespectacled student falls in love with the petite Jane.
The film, a life-affirming tear-jerker, focuses on their relationship. He is an agnostic, she a Catholic and how their blossoming love affair was affected by Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurodegenerative disease. It is touching to hear her say, "He loves me and I love him and we are going to fight this illness together, all of us."
Despite his illness, falling, stumbling and crawling Hawking fathers three children and reveals that beyond the extraordinary circumstances, he is "a man" nevertheless. The scene elicits a chuckle but at the same times reveals the genius' joie-de-vivre attitude.
Anthony McCarten's script is well-etched with the right amount of dramatics and emotional display. It does not get messy or melodramatic at any given stage. The scenes are treated in a distinct antiseptic nature and the plot races at times trying to hit every major event in Hawking's life.
What keeps you glued to your seat is the power-packed performances by the cast. Watching Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking is like seeing the man himself both mentally and physically. His posture, gait and slurred speech were not acting, but personification of the character. His performance is probably one of the best portrayed in recent times and worthy of several awards.
Felecity Jones, who compliments Eddie as his wife Jane, who declined to take the easy option out of the relationship, delivers an equally robust performance. Her transition from a cheerful youngster to a responsible wife to a distressed mother and a frustrated lover is palpable. You feel for her.
There is Charlie Cox as Jonathan, a lonely widower and a choir master at the local parish, who is ever willing to offer a helping hand to the beleaguered family. He delivers a sensitive, but fairly predictable performance, that's probably because of the stereotyped nature of the character he portrays.
With sharp eye for detailing, director James Marsh delivers a brilliantly scripted film that delves on the romance angle and not glorification of the genius. The director has taken pains in the detailing and the finer nuances of the histrionics. It is amazing to notice how he judiciously introduces hints of the illness from the very first scene so that the progression into a full-blown disability is seamless and absolutely convincing.
Except for minor issues; like grainy frames in the visuals of the family picnic scene and parallel editing when Stephen and Jane are cuddling their first born, which seems like the couple are having twins, the film otherwise is a masterpiece.