In my lead up to the Academy Awards, I had to see The Theory of Everything, the well regarded tale of the life and times of Stephen Hawking, as seen through the eyes (and the memoirs) of his ex-wife Jane.
It’s Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of the physicist that has garnered all the attention and awards, and it’s not hard to see why. He shows the deterioration of the man from a cocky (some could say arrogant) student at Cambridge to the world renowned physicist with one of the most recognisable “voices” on the planet. Its an incredibly moving performance, without going “the full ret@rd” and keeping the man human behind the electric wheelchair.
But it is Felicity Jones as Jane who has to carry a lot of the film as Hawking becomes more incapacitated. She makes some tough calls, sometimes bafflingly so, and drives / forces Stephen to deal with and adapt to his changing physical abilities. The performance is nowhere near as physical as that of Redmayne, but it needs to stay a strong and defiant and animated character whilst Hawking’s world is reduced and more insular.
Overall as a film, it works. It’s a fairly standard biopic so there is nothing particularly imaginative in how it is developed and plays out, or about the cinematography, or the soundtrack, or anything really. No, what makes this one stand out is the performances, and they are riveting.
There are the odd (pardon the pun) stumbles, like when the film goes a bit too cliché at a press conference, but overall it’s a slow, quiet film with dignity and grace and a real pleasure to watch. I didn’t feel particularly emotional at any stage, but I did feel educated and enjoyed the fairly sedate journey.
Verdict: The actors in The Theory of Everything raise the film above the average to the extraordinary. It didn’t blow my mind, but it definitely made me think and kept me entertained throughout – and what more can one ask? 8 theories out of 10.