Despite being one of the most iconic and recognizable men on Earth, only once before has there been a biopic about Stephen Hawking, a 2004 TV movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch. That hardly seems worthy for the incredible man that is Stephen Hawking, so I was so happy to discover that a proper biopic of the man was in production, and would center on Hawking’s battle with motor neuron disease, and his relationship with his first wife, Jane Wilde.
I will admit that I am not the biggest fan of Eddie Redmayne, but you would have to be a fool to not recognize his incredible achievement playing Hawking in this film. Not only does he look like Hawking, he brings a lot of emotional range to the performance that could have been lost if another actor had played him. You could say a lot about Redmayne’s performance, but you can’t deny that he did the very best he or anyone possibly could, and his dedication to the role is nothing but inspiring. He gives a great performance, and one that will catapult him from young supporting actor to leading man status very soon.
Felicity Jones has been hovering around with small British projects for a while now, but playing Jane Hawking, she finally has her breakthrough. While she may not be as brilliant as Redmayne, she brings a new level to the popular “struggling wife” cliche – she gives character and personality to an otherwise most likely bland performance. Other than Jones, the supporting cast is also strong, if not slightly underused. Highlights include Charlie Cox as a friend of Jane and Stephen’s, David Thewlis as Dennis Sciama, Stephen’s initial university professor and later esteemed Cambridge Colleague. The cast, overall, is quite strong.
I hardly ever talk about this specific aspect so in-depth, but I truly need to praise what is by far my favorite part of The Theory of Everything – the score. The score, by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson was just an absolute marvel of orchestration and just plain beautiful music to balance a beautiful love story. It is grandiose, but intimate. Soaring, but humble. It is one of the greatest film scores I’ve ever heard, and was a major reason why I enjoyed The Theory of Everything more than I expected.
Yet, something else troubles me – other than the leads’ brilliant performances and the score, the film is actually…weak. The writing can be a little pretentious, and the directing by James Marsh sometimes bears the resemblance to a made-for-television movie. As compelling as the story is, it does fall a little short when it comes to other aspects apart from the previously mentioned strong points. Without the incredible performance by Redmayne and Jones and the excellent supporting cast and score, it would’ve been almost dreadfully boring. There was very little behind the film visually, and unfortunately, it does fall victim to the imminent threats of cliche several times, and the melodrama, especially in the first act, can put some people off. The film doesn’t do too much to captivate right from the start, so if you find yourself nodding off in the first half hour, chances are you won’t really like the film as a whole. However, if you are emotionally invested and truly interested in the inspiring true story behind Stephen Hawking’s life, then you will find The Theory of Everything to be something quite remarkable.
The Theory of Everything doesn’t have tons of staying power. In the next decade, there will be almost a dozen movies telling similar stories in a very similar way, and I don’t see why The Theory of Everything will stand out as being exceptional, with the only foreseeable iconic part of this film being Redmayne’s performance. Yet it was the film Stephen Hawking’s amazing life deserved, and it stays true to who he is and what he stood for, and told the incredible story of one of the most inspiring men to ever live. As a film it isn’t great, but as a story, it is remarkable and tearjerking. A sad and melancholic look at the man who didn’t ever once back down when everyone urged him to do so.