Buoyed by powerful performances from Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, the biographical romance “The Theory of Everything” is a wonderful celebration of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and his loving relationship with Jane Wilde.
Whenever Stephen Hawking is mentioned, the image we conjure up is one of a brilliant wheelchair-bound man who uses a mechanical voice-activated device to communicate. But beyond that impression is someone whose aspirations and relationships and struggles were, and still are, relevant long before he became a celebrity. A domestic life that is unique and universal, yet concealed by the curtain of contemporary pop culture.
But “The Theory of Everything,” directed by James Marsh, allows us to follow and understand Stephen’s life prior to his worldwide fame. More importantly, however, is the fact that he never would’ve succeeded without his cherished wife and partner, Jane.
Marsh’s meticulous direction brims with atmospheric warmth and intelligence, painting a lifelike environment in which Stephen and Jane’s lives unfold and intertwine. Plus, the remarkable attention to detail seen in the stages of the former’s diagnosis of motor neuron disease exudes genuine emotion, capturing the essence of each moment the couple experiences.
I appreciate how “The Theory of Everything” does not ignore the hardships of marriage and instead embraces the pain and joy that accompany the decisions both Stephen and Jane make in order to adapt. The love between two persons is not without its complexity, and every beautifully shot scene — from their Cambridge beginnings to what ultimately becomes of them — immerses the viewer in their engaging chemistry.
Stepping into Stephen Hawking’s shoes is like solving a mathematical equation that few can understand, and who better to embody his heart, mind and soul than Eddie Redmayne? The best aspect of his incredibly expressive performance is, when charting Hawking’s physical transformation, his marvelous ability to inhabit the man’s defiance of his illness with a fusion of wit and perseverance. If anyone matches the “perfectly cast” definition, it’s him.
They say behind every great man there’s a great woman, and nowhere are such wise words more relevant than in Felicity Jones. She has this balletic poise about her that brings out the tenderness and vulnerability needed to anchor Jane’s romance with Stephen. It’s no easy task trying to maintain your own sense of identity and care for those closest to you, but, as Jones effortlessly demonstrates, being that pillar of strength is a triumph in and of itself.
In the end, Marsh proves he has the sensitivity required to tackle such a poignant story, and both Redmayne and Jones imbue their roles with depth and authenticity. So, when you consider the empathy “The Theory of Everything” has for humanity through the eyes of Stephen and Jane, it’s hard not to recognize the validity in this film’s assertion that when we set our minds to something, our potentials are endless. Even if art-house cinema isn’t your cup of tea, I believe “The Theory of Everything” is worth a trip to the theater.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for some thematic elements and suggestive material.
Run time: 2 hours 3 minutes
Playing: In limited release