Please note that if you haven’t seen the film, read further at your own risk (spoilers are ahead, sorry). Also, if you haven’t seen the film, you should – now.
There are very few films that I’m compelled to rush to the theater to see straight away, especially due to time and budgetary reasons. However, I had done extensive research on The Theory of Everything, plowing through countless reviews and reading about Stephen Hawking’s life. And then Eddie Redmayne (rightfully) won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama, and I was convinced that I would be changed from this film.
Changed is putting it lightly. The director, cast, and even the composer (Johann Johannsson) wind together a biopic of Stephen Hawking, based on Jane Wilde Hawking’s book, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen. The product is an emotional look into the life of an extraordinary genius who begins deteriorating from motor neuron disease (more commonly known as ALS), all while his faithful Jane tries her best to be by his side the entire time. If this story isn’t your definition of true inspiration, then you must have a black hole in place of a heart. Because, really – this story is everything.
I can honestly say that this film probably ranks as my new favorite. As I’ve grown older, my taste in films (and books) has drastically changed as well, and I’ve only been interested in delving into novels and films that are based on true stories or are nonfictional accounts of life-changing ordeals. The Theory of Everything is a rare gem, an indie film devoid of all God-awful mainstream themes (i.e. violence, excessive & over-the-top explosions, explicit content). It’s a type of film that gives hope to humanity and shows just how beautiful the meaning of life really can be when preserved. It portrays the excitement and hardships (in particular, Jane’s responsibility as his caretaker, wife, mother of three, and homemaker) that comes along with their relationship, marriage, and eventually, their parting of ways. I cried like I’ve never cried before – I think the only other time I may have cried to this extent was when my heart was broken. For a film to evoke such raw emotions in a traditional way – that’s everything.
In particular, there were three scenes that stuck with me the most: (1) the riveting croquet scene, when Jane challenges Stephen to a game – almost in a selfish way, as if to understand how severe his condition is; (2) when Stephen is struggling to pull himself up the stairs while his infant gazes on through the baby gate, helplessly, and; (3) the scene where little to no words are spoken between Stephen and Jane, yet they both realize through their tears that their once eternally-bound paths are going different ways.
Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones were phenomenal as Stephen & Jane Hawking, although I believe that Redmayne truly carried the weight of the film on his shoulders. His subtle nuances and awkward mannerisms in the beginning of the film turned into heightened responses as his physical state begins to weaken before your eyes. At this point, Redmayne isn’t impersonating – it’s being inhabited by Hawking himself, on point with every eye flicker and slurred speech. It’s heartbreaking yet also endearing, since Redmayne continues to convey Hawking’s wit and optimism in every scene. Throughout the film, Redmayne is acutely aware of his every move, facial expression, and every way in which he has to contort his body or loosen his muscles to portray Hawking to the best of his ability. And to step into the role of a legendary genius (a doctor, professor, and a nearly knighted one, as well) without degrading the nature of ALS is a beautiful accomplishment for Redmayne.
And the score. This is the type of score that will cause every hair on your skin to stand up, not out of fear, but because it’s that good. Music can make or break a film, and in this case, it embodies the entire film. Johann Johannsson richly deserved that Golden Globe, and I hope he walks onstage to claim the Oscar as well.
Here are a few of Stephen Hawking’s quotes that showcase his story of triumph:
Stephen Hawking is inspiring and optimistic, and this film does an amazing job on shedding light on his accomplishments (both past and present). As Hawking has stated himself, “However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.”
I believe that most people walk into this film thinking they’re going to see a great film – but walk away with a brilliance that they may have never known was there in the first place. This film empowers, inspires, and challenges you to believe that anything is possible.
Read more about the film vs. Stephen Hawking’s story here.