Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are Stephen and Jane Hawking in The Theory of Everything.

Reel Reviews: Hawking biopic is a wonder

The Theory of Everything is interesting, powerful, moving, beautiful and a film that deserves your attention.

  • Nov. 30, 2014 12:00 p.m.

Young Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is a promising physics student at Cambridge University when he meets the lovely and charming Jane (Felicity Jones.) Despite their differences in tastes, habits and especially faith, the two quickly fall in love.

It is around the time of their courtship that Hawking begins to notice a loss of his muscle functions. At first, he writes it off as partying too hard, being a bit clumsy or simply having the shakes, but when his motor functions cause him to have an accident requiring medical care, doctors conclude he has ALS and likely only a couple years to live.

Depressed and angry, it is Jane who brings Hawking out of his funk, explaining, “If you’ve only got two years, we had better get to work making the most of it.”

They marry and begin a long life together, filled with love, struggle, failure and triumph. The Theory of Everything is the true story of a relationship that continues to this day.

This is a film with so many facets to it that I simply had to tell you all about it. It’s not currently showing in a theatre in Vernon, and unfortunately, Mr. Howe was unable to view The Theory of Everything. You too may not be able to watch it yet, but I’m sure a movie this good won’t be hidden from you for very long.

I’ve been interested in both the work and life of Stephen Hawking since he published his first book A Brief History of Time in 1988. This film proves to be an accurate representation of Hawking’s life, as nearly as I can tell, based on his own memoirs and the recently published book by his ex-wife, Jane Hawking.

So we get to see the ups and downs, the humour, the pain, even the fact that Hawking is a bit of a jerk. (“Jerk” in the scientific sense.) While accuracy is important, it’s only a small part of what makes this film great.

Redmayne (Les Miserables, My Week with Marilyn) gives the performance of his young career, portraying Hawking. At first, as a young man, he looks quite like Austin Powers, with ‘60s shaggy hair and crooked glasses. As Hawking deteriorates, we watch Redmayne transform into the twisted, grimacing wheelchair-bound professor we all know. It is this transformation that is remarkable and I hope that the Academy Awards nominate Redmayne for best actor.

Further enhancing his performance is an uncanny ability to somehow manipulate the twinkle in his eye. As Hawking’s paralysis becomes complete, despite having his computer to speak for him, it is the emotion portrayed via his eyes that really made me want to tell you about this film. Here is a man who is clearly happy, proud, sad, cheeky and lustful.

A lesser actor would not have had these traits come across the void ALS creates, at least, without having the computer voice tell you so, which would have likely spoiled the film.

Check out The Theory of Everything when you get the chance. It’s interesting, powerful, moving, beautiful and a film that deserves your attention, if only to remind you what makes a film great: the right pieces in the right places.

I give The Theory of Everything 5 magazine subscriptions out of 5.

– Brian Taylor is a film critic based in Vernon.

 

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