Director: James Marsh
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, David Thewlis, Emily Watson, Charlie Cox, Simon McBurney
Written by: Anthony McCarten and (based on the book,”Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen”) Jane Hawking
Running Time: 123 mins
Release date: 1st January 2015
We all know that Stephen Hawking, renowned astrophysicist, is a remarkable man. So to tell his story, or to the point, the love story between him and his first wife, Jane, should also be remarkable. That’s exactly what I wanted when I went into The Theory Of Everything. While the performances of the two leads hit those heady heights and the direction and general look matches the great man, I found myself thinking this is all too ordinary and rather overcooked.
Stephen Hawking is a brilliant 21-year-old at Cambridge, studying Physics when he meets arts student, Jane. Immediately, they connect and so starts a sweet and gentle relationship. Just as Hawking is getting into his stride as a physicist, he is struck down with motor neuron disease. Told he only has two years to live and finding it increasingly difficult to handle everyday activities, Stephen closes himself off to everyone. Except Jane refuses to give in and is determined to make the relationship work.
The story of Stephen and Jane’s life is just as remarkable as the man himself. Refusing to let the disease destroy his mind, so the same can be said about Jane’s refusal to give up on the man she loves. It is a truly heart-warming and inspirational tale. Director James Marsh can see this and has produced a handsome looking piece of work with terrific cinematography from Benoît Delhomme. However, Marsh also feels that we, the audience, need the occasional “push” to remind us that this is a heart-felt drama so the problems begin.
As the romance turns into domestic life: marriage, kids, living with the disease, Marsh feels the urge to over dramatise every single moment, so instead of getting a coherent structure, he sets the gears in motion to go from one heavy scene to the next, implemented with an intrusive score that consists of violins and single note piano playing. Fine for a few tear-inducting scenes but this becomes the mantra of the film.
It also doesn’t help that the script often lurches towards soapy melodrama instead of the naturalistic nature of the first few scenes, when the young Stephen and Jane are courting. When the film really works is the everyday moments, showing Hawking’s work or how others see how Hawking’s is coping.
Things don’t help when Jonathan, a choir master who takes a shine to Jane, enters the picture. The film starts to drag its feet as we obviously know there is a connection between the two, yet it seems to be hammered home by more daytime TV dialogue and louder gushing strings.
Where the film does triumph, thankfully, is from the performances from the two leads. Felicity Jones, who was quietly good in last year’s The Invisible Woman, really gets to make her mark here. Playing the tougher role of Jane, she sparkles throughout, going from girlish charm at the beginning to a woman coping with a man she obviously love and seeing him deteriorating to one of confusion when another man enters her life. It is a performance that could easily get overlooked due to her co-star but but thankfully it doesn’t, as without her, the other wouldn’t work as well.
The co-star, of course, I am referring to is Eddie Redmayne as Stephen. His is a truly remarkable performance, for making us believe he is the great man. Right from the start, Redmayne immerses himself in the part and by the end you really forget it’s him and that you are watching Hawking himself. It’s the kind of role that every actor dreams of playing and every award ceremony loves. Redmayne and Jones, apart are terrific. Together they are incredible. What really works is the chemistry between the two. You don’t need the whaling violins. It would have worked without it. They truly sparkle.
The Theory Of Everything had so much going for it, except a director who didn’t believe that the story of a man and a woman, falling in love, could work by itself. Instead he gave us a film that looks magnificent and has two of the finest performances from two very talented British actors, all wrapped up in a melodramatic soap opera. Stephen Hawking deserved better.