The Theory of Everything (2014)
Directed by James Marsh.
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, David Thewlis, Simon McBurney, Emily Watson, Harry Lloyd, Maxine Peak, Abigail Cruttenden, Guy-Oliver Watts, Alice Orr-Ewing.
2014 122 minutes
Rated: (for some thematic elements and suggestive material).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, November 26, 2014.
Based on Jane Hawking's memoir "Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen," "The Theory of Everything" plots the relationship between Jane (Felicity Jones) and brilliant theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) from their initial courtship while studying at Cambridge in the 1960s through their 25-plus-year marriage. In that time, they had three children, clashed on occasion over their disagreements about religion (he was a man of science, she of Christian faith), and struggled to find normalcy in the face of Stephen's debilitating motor neuron disease that left him paralyzed and, eventually, unable to speak. In a performance that comes close to feeling like an event, Eddie Redmayne (2011's "My Week with Marilyn
") disappears entirely behind his onscreen façade, transforming his looks and body to beautifully, humanely pay tribute to a man who never let his extreme physical handicaps get in the way of his life's ambitions. As Jane, Felicity Jones (2011's "Like Crazy
") is lovely and poignant, actualizing the reality of a woman who dedicates herself to caring for her husband but finally must make a tough decision to start living for herself. If Redmayne and Jones are uniformly excellent, the film they are in is of a lesser caliber that reminds of a really well-shot "Disease of the Week" melodrama.
Director James Marsh (2013's "Shadow Dancer") and screenwriter Anthony McCarten are largely beholden to Jane's point of view since their picture is adapted from her book, and there is the rather brave suggestion that, upon learning of Stephen's diagnosis, she initially decided to marry him because he was only expected to survive for two years. He, of course, proved the doctors wrong, and Jane continued to stand beside him for decades. "The Theory of Everything" does not sugarcoat their romanceindeed, they separated in 1990 and divorced five years laterbut it also often seems so preoccupied by Stephen's illness that it sidelines the other aspects of his life and the many achievements he has made in the field of physics. Depsite the by-the-numbers trajectory of its narrative, the film is renewed by Redmayne and Jones' impassioned turns.