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[av_heading heading=’THEORY OF EVERYTHING’ tag=’h2′ style=’blockquote modern-quote’ size=’40’ subheading_active=’subheading_below’ subheading_size=’20’ padding=’40’ color=’custom-color-heading’ custom_font=’#ffffff’]
The theory about everything review: Film depicting the life of Professor Stephen Hawking
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IT is going to be a battle of the boffins at the Oscars next year. Benedict Cumberbatch is a frontrunner for playing Alan Turing in The Imitation Game and Eddie Redmayne will be a powerful contender for his remarkable performance as Professor Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything.
By HENRY FITZHERBERT
Director: James Marsh
Stars: Eddie Redmayne,Felicity Jones,Charlie Cox
Playing Hawking from PhD student through to global superstardom as the author of A Brief History Of Time Redmayne is outstanding, inhabiting Hawking’s stricken body and brilliant mind with complete conviction.
In the same way that The Imitation Game humanised an intimidatingly clever and remote figure so The Theory Of Everything reveals the man behind the icon: courageous, mischievous, funny but also difficult and selfish.
It may not be a warts-and-all portrait (the picture is too genteel for that) but it’s a touching, humorous and inspirational insight into a man who refused to accept conventional boundaries, both of the mind and body.
We’re reminded quite how extraordinary it is that he’s still alive (now 72) when a doctor informs him, while at Cambridge University, that he has only two years to live. Told that his body will shut down as Motor Neurone Disease destroys his muscle function, Stephen asks about his brain. The doctor (Adam Godley) explains that it will continue to function normally but adds: “No one will know what your thoughts are.” The great mind will have no way to communicate.
Most people would have thrown in the towel and perhaps Stephen would have done were it not for Jane Wilde (a wonderful Felicity Jones), the girlfriend who refused to give up on him or let him give up.
Petite and seemingly demure she’s determined and quietly tenacious and the film is as much about her as it is Hawking. The screenplay by Anthony McCarten is based on her memoir, Travelling To Infinity: My Life With Stephen, and it’s their relationship which resulted in three children but ended in divorce that forms the heart of the story along with the role played by family friend and Jane’s eventual second husband, bashful choirmaster Jonathan Hellyer Jones (Charlie Cox).
This potentially messy state of affairs is handled with great delicacy and is the source of the picture’s fascination, heart and charm. It’s some achievement: what might have seemed uncomfortable and intrusive is actually moving, tender and sweet.
The result is a very British love story between three people, all extraordinary in their own way, who are trying to find happiness and fulfilment in the most trying of circumstances. We don’t get wild explosions or tantrums or declarations of love but mostly silent, dignified struggle and unspoken desire.
Initially we witness the love affair between Hawking and Jane who meet at Cambridge and strike up an instant rapport at a party despite having little in common. She’s a student of medieval Spanish poetry and a firm believer in God, he’s a “cosmologist” which he describes as a “religion for intelligent atheists”.
Still, love conquers all against the backdrop of a firework display during a May Ball where they kiss. On paper it sounds very Hollywood and their courtship is seductively staged and performed but the pair are winningly British and their conversation is hardly the stuff of your average Hollywood romance. They natter about quantum physics, God and Einstein.
Hawking explains his ambition to discover an “equation that explains everything in the universe” as he begins to explore his fascination with “time”.
The scientific talk is cleverly handled with some imaginative visual cues like cream swirling in a coffee cup. We may not understand the details but the general gist is clear as Hawking makes some ground-breaking discoveries into the origins of the universe.
In any case it’s not the science that compels or intrigues; we know the man’s a genius. What we don’t know is the personal story behind the work and the rather strange and testing family life endured by his wife who for years was denied help by her husband. “We’re just a normal family,” he insists.
Enter choirmaster Jonathan, beautifully played by Cox, a lonely widower who offers the support and companionship Jane increasingly yearns for. It’s their slow-burning relationship that really lights up the film as Jonathan becomes a regular presence in the family’s life without over-stepping the boundaries of propriety.
It’s a romance in the Brief Encounter mould in which British reserve and consideration for others stands in the way of personal gratification.
The result is touching and intriguing as you wonder how this unusual ménage à trois will resolve. Indeed, it becomes a ménage à quatre when Hawking’s ebullient new carer, Elaine Mason (Maxine Peake), enters the equation.
It’s also funny. Hawking has a mischievous wit while humour is used to shed light on sensitive issues like his sex life.
Directed by James Marsh (Man On Wire), The Theory Of Everything is a well crafted, superbly acted drama that navigates the tricky personal life of a world famous figure with style, humour and humanity. Time to place your bets on which British boffin will take home the Oscar.
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