2016.26: The Theory of Everything (DVD)
This dramatic and uplifting film is quite an achievement and particularly notable for the performances of its two leads- Eddie Redmayne as famous scientist Stephen Hawking and Felicity Jones as his wife Jane. Both are outstanding and it could be argued that Jones actually steals the show away from Redmayne’s Oscar-winning performance. Her casting in this years Star Wars: Rogue One is exciting to say the least, and it will be fascinating to see if she can bridge the gap from thoughtful drama to full-blown blockbuster. If she can manage that then surely the skies the limit for her career.
While the film is not exactly historically accurate (some liberties have inevitably been made for the sake of drama) it tells a gripping and emotionally-charged story. We see young Hawking before he became ill, as a brilliant but socially awkward Cambridge student who meets an attractive fellow student, Jane, at a party. Romance blooms but then tragedy interrupts, with Hawking diagnosed with a neurological disorder that will gradually rob him of physical control and likely prove fatal within two years. Jane stands by Hawking and marries him, sacrificing her own career in order to care for him as his disorder takes hold and confines him to a wheelchair.
At its most trite, you could sum up the film as a ‘love conquers all’ message, but a few twists towards the end reminds you that this is based on real events and not everything in life works out the way you would like (or as most movies would prefer). It adds a welcome weight and poignancy to the film, a sense of reality even if it plays a little fast and loose with some of the facts. It’s certainly a life-affirming film and an inspirational tale. Thankfully it doesn’t repeatedly bang you on the head with a THIS FILM IS IMPORTANT message. It has a story to tell and tells it well, and leaves it at that.
Beyond those aforementioned two stellar leads the supporting cast is very good too. The story zips along maintaining a steady pace demonstrating some accomplished editing. My only caveat is that the passage of time is a little hard to judge sometimes-I would have prefered perhaps the mechanism of a subtitled date momentarily onscreen to give the viewer a sense of when things are happening. A lot can be judged by changing fashions etc (the films art direction is fantastic) but I think an onscreen date as years pass between sections would have helped.