Winner - Best Actor (Eddie Redmayne)

UNIVERSAL PICTURES (2014)

Director: James Marsh

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, David Thewlis, Maxine Peake

Cambridge. 1963.

A compelling journey begins. A journey that focuses more on the romantic side of Stephen Hawking’s life and the struggles it brings to his family, and his wife Jane’s anguish at how her life is developing, rather than the brilliant work that Professor Hawking developed and continues to do so.

 

As the movie progresses, the story explores the relationship between Stephen and Jane as his motor neurone disease takes over, with the strain it causes as Jane cares for Stephen and their three children (Robert, Lucy and Timothy).

Also told, the developing bonds between Jane and Jonathan Jones (Cox) – a widower who runs the church choir, and of Stephen and Elaine Mason (Peake) – a nurse that eventually helps Stephen begin to communicate again.

 

Eddie Redmayne is phenomenal as Professor Stephen Hawking, and powers the film along in a role that earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor. His early, youthful demeanour in the film’s opening acts really help set the tone for the remainder of the film, as we see how Stephen was in his youth – no different to the majority of us. His playful act is fantastic, bouncing off each of his contemporaries and close ones fluently and naturally. The sheer exertion Redmayne showed as Hawking’s condition deteriorates is staggering, having to chart the decline of Hawking over time and replicating all aspects of his maneuverability and speech, and having enough in the tank to portray the powerful emotions as Hawking watches his relationship suffer and comprehends what the illness has done to him. His decision towards the movie's conclusion is a shocking one, considering all that has gone before, and could have put a black mark against him (in reality, it did for a time) however the enduring connection he shares with Jane, and the ramifications of it, allow the audience to see the great sacrifice made. Redmayne’s performance is a remarkable feat, one approved by Professor Hawking himself, who commented that there were certain points when he thought he was watching himself.

 

Felicity Jones is spectacular as Jane Hawking (nee Wilde) and also correctly received an Academy Award nomination for her role. Watching her performance, beginning as a shy, affable lady, to falling in love with a man she promises to help whatever happens, her connection with Jonathan, the slow deterioration as the strain of three children, Stephen and her conflicting emotions fight each other to the final release is compelling, sad yet uplifting to watch and is handled masterfully. She is never too fragile and never too defiant with whatever she goes through, handling every event with the perfect amount of emotion, strength and resiliency. Similar to Stephen, as the movie unfolds, her decisions and exploits could easily have her cast as a villain of sorts, however, by the end, you feel every bit of happiness with her situation.  

 

The incredible portrayal of physical (Stephen) and mental (Jane) deterioration is expertly crafted and superbly delivered, and the films emotional punch is heavy and genuine because of this.

 

The pacing of the film is great, allowing for the story to develop and unfold with the exposition it required, without feeling clunky or weighed down by gloominess, allowing those moments to develop and bloom without feeling tacked on at all, or over in a blink, and adding a greater sense of satisfaction at the positive aspects of the story. The movie received another Academy Award nod in the form of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score, with moods ranging from optimistic, somber, dreamlike and fairy tale – a captivating listen and a perfect companion to the movie’s events. Paired with the wonderful cinematography, it creates a magnificent experience.

The Theory of Everything is a powerful adaptation of Jane Hawking’s memoir, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen (which is a reworking of Music to Move the Stars: A Life with Stephen) and serves as a stunning look at the lives of Stephen Hawking and Jane, and also as a fabulous story about love, struggles, temptation and overcoming adversity in the face of anything.

 

A truly stunning piece of art.

August 30th 2016

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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