THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Directed by James Marsh
Starring Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox
Every year there's at least one performance that goes on to define a certain performer's career. This year it will undoubtedly be the case for Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. The movie alone is powerful. Add in Redmayne's unflinching and vulnerable portrayal and what you're left with is a piece of brilliance.
Stephen Hawking continues to pave a legacy of intelligence and perseverance. Despite being crippled by ALS, the cosmologist has become a scientific genius often mentioned in the same breaths as predecessors like Einstein. In The Theory of Everything, Hawking's story unfolds as the science major explores his first forays of college, offering glimpses of his genius straight from the beginning. Not long after he begins unraveling some of physics' greatest questions, the young Hawking finds out he is suffering from ALS and has only two years to live. This rips at his core and leads him to a bout of depression. Only through the determination of Jane, a fellow co-ed, does Hawking power through. The two end up marrying and starting a family, despite the physical difficulties the disease presents. It's in the years after Hawking loses most of his normal motor skills that emotions run high and the end seems like the only answer.
When telling the true story of someone's life, a director has to be careful in how they approach the subject. Sometimes, the story becomes desensitized by overindulgence. Other times, the story ends up feeling choppy. It's the rare occasion when a true story reaches the silver screen with such sincerity and rawness as in The Theory of Everything. Director James Marsh treats Hawking's life with such care that it's hard to imagine the real story was any different than what we see. There are beautiful filmmaking choices that enhance the senses while never taking away from the heart of the story. Marsh is also careful not to allow the science to ever become overwhelming. While Hawking seemingly devoted his life to science, it's the pursuit of love and happiness that is really the most inherent and, in some ways, heartbreaking.
What works the best in The Theory of Everything is the incredible chemistry and dedication given in the performances by Redmayne and Felicity Jones. Redmayne literally melts into Hawking's shoes, mastering everything from the clumsy gate of his walk to the deformed maneuvering of his hands as his body is taken over by the disease. There are many scenes where Redmayne isn't even talking, but the earnest emotions coming through his eyes are enough to move you. Jones delivers her finest work to date as the compassionate and overwhelmed Jane. Her love is unconditional as she goes through the motions over and over again. It's the story of unrequited love despite circumstances. Even when the two seem to drift apart and find new partners, there's a quality of true love that remains. Not a single one of these honest moments appear without seamless work from both actors. It would be a shame for either Redmayne or Jones to be left off of any awards list in the next coming months.
I seem to really like movies that with stick with me for longer than the car ride home afterwards. The Theory of Everything is one of these movies. It's difficult to portray disabilities without coming across as trying to hard or as overly-saccharin. Neither of those apply here. There's a perfect amount of grace given to each and every image seen on screen. It is truly a work of encouraging and empowering art.
Runtime: 123 minutes