The Theory Of Everything

Art & Culture

The Oscars season is upon us people. That means vicious campaigns, your Twitter timelines being filled up with rants about controversial nominations and more than a handful of biographical films. One of those films being The Theory of Everything which is about astrophysics student Stephen Hawking meeting and falling in love with Jane Wilde Hawking, who are both studying for their PhDs at Cambridge University. His life is changed however when he is diagnosed with the motor neuron disease, and both struggle with balancing family life and work.

Luckily in the case of The Theory of Everything it has a lot going for it. A talented cast of young, British up-and-coming actors. It’s adapted from a memoir by Stephen Hawking first wife Jane Wilde Hawking and even boasts critically-acclaimed director James Marsh at its helm. Everything should go as planned. However, some important questions still remain. Will the film be elevated above ordinary TV movie territory which other similar biopics have fallen victim to? Also, will the importance of Stephen Hawking and his genius be handled in the right manner or focus more on his relationship with his wife at the time?

The Theory of Everything is worth watching for Eddie Redmayne’s performance alone as Stephen Hawking. His mannerisms and subtle body movements even from very early on in the film are mesmerising and thankfully lean more towards the makings of a performance rather than an imitation which so many biopics tend to suffer from. Due to the role requiring such a physical restriction we mainly are left with dialogue or limited facial expressions which Redmayne has mastered so well. It should also be noted that Felicity Jones as his wife also gives an extraordinary performance as we see her struggling with looking after the family which also pursuing her own career, helping Stephen with his illness, dealing with depression and putting on a brave face throughout everything no matter what.  

Many have commented that they were expecting and hoping for more attention on Hawking’s work in the film similar to 2001’s ‘A Beautiful Mind’ about math prodigy John Nash. However, one must consider that although there may be some glaring structure problems with the film and it can feel very rushed at times, it did not present itself as anything else but a story about the marriage of Stephen Hawkings and Jane Wilde Hawkings. The taglines for the film read ‘The incredible story of Jane and Stephen Hawking’ and ‘His mind changed our world. Her love changed his’. Although one could argue that a film more about Hawkings actual work and successes in Physics may have proved to be more rewarding and intriguing. The scenes where director Marsh shows Hawking coming up with brilliant ideas or impressing his peers with his groundbreaking theories is also when the film peaks.

Jóhann Jóhannsson score is also being overlooked by many for no reason whatsoever and should be receiving praise along with the performances of the film. It is definitely up there with the Gone Girl score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross as one of the best in recent times. The score elevates the emotional element of the scenes, rather than routinely acting as background noise and merely reflecting what is being portrayed on screen. Jóhannsson uses an effective memorable mixture of acoustic and electronic soundscapes to build tension and emphasise the dramatic elements of the film that would have otherwise fell flat.

The film definitely feels rushed and may not appeal to those that are more interested in Hawking’s work than his personal life but still has some redeeming elements such as the compelling performances and impressive score.