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Film Review: The Theory of Everything (2014)

The Theory of Everything is a sweeping love story based on Jane Hawking’s memoir “Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen”, which depicts the life of genius astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. Directed by the very capable James Marsh, who previously received an Oscar for his documentary Man on Wire (2008), the film is full of lush colour and creative depictions of Hawking’s brilliant ideas through clever editing and beautiful cinematography. Eddie Redmayne is superb in the role of the ALS-stricken but tenacious and quick-minded Hawking, masterfully depicting the dystrophy of the man’s body and speech over time but retaining his brilliance and surprisingly acute sense of humour. Felicity Jones is positively saintly as the long-suffering Jane Hawking, Stephen’s first wife and caretaker, and mother of his three children. The film culminates in a brief fantasy sequence of Stephen standing up from his wheelchair so that he can pick up a pen from the floor. Profoundly moved by the path that his life has taken after finding out about his disease, Stephen gives an inspirational speech about human endeavour. And at the end, he and Jane look back happily on their life, work, and children.

As gorgeous and inspirational as the film is, the relationship between Jane and Stephen is shown to have been at a Sparksian level of sappy, even up to their apparently drama-free divorce, which is a softening of the truth. The screenwriter also took quite a few liberties in rearranging and compressing the timeline (haha, get it?) for narrative reasons, which is forgivable but should be noted. The more realistic and interesting part of the film was the depiction of the resilience of the Hawkings who had thought that, at the time of Stephen’s diagnosis for motor neuron disease at the age of 21, he would only live for two more years. Yet, Jane fought alongside Stephen, marrying him and supporting him for decades while he focused on his groundbreaking research into time and looking for the equation for everything, which, as the titles tell us at the end, he is still working to discover.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 talking computers with American accents

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