Review: The Theory of Everything

the-theory-of-everything

The trailer for The Theory of Everything played before The Imitation Game and looked like a good companion piece to the Alan Turing biopic. But, was a second film about the life and struggle of an iconic British scientist too many for such a short space of time? However, The Theory of Everything looked too good to miss. Up until this week, I had Benedict Cumberbatch down as the shoe-in for the Oscar for his portrayal of Alan Turing. I mean, it’s The Cumberbatch. He’s about the hottest star in the world right now! I now feel differently.

This film is a fairly standard biopic with the ‘insert tab A into slot A’ plot devices: Introduction to the main character’s intellect, boy meets girl, circumstances arise to threaten the relationship, the couple cope against adversity, etc. The ending isn’t quite as obvious as you may expect, however, if you know anything about Stephen Hawking you know how it plays out.

Eddie Redmayne may not be as well-known as Benedict Cumberbatch, but this fact may well change very soon. His performance in this film is one of the best performances by an actor in a long time. He completely transforms himself during the course of the film from the Hawking people don’t really know – an endearingly awkward high flyer with no real cares – to the Hawking most people are aware of – the wheelchair-bound victim of motor neuron disease who speaks through a computer and is still one of the most prolific thinkers of the 20th & 21st centuries.

His portrayal of someone who is slowly losing his physical capabilities is both heart-breaking and mesmerising. It is an unbelievable feat of physical acting and something that elevates him above any of the other nominees for best actor at this years Oscars. It’s uncanny how much Redmayne makes himself look like Hawking.

His acting aside, the plot of the film is based on the autobiography of his first wife, Jane Hawking – played by Felicity Jones. As such, there is just enough time spent on the science to showcase the genius of the man, but not enough to bore/blow the minds of the casual cinema goer. The plot centralises on the struggle of the relationship between Stephen and Jane and how they cope with his deteriorating condition while also raising three children.

This central relationship is really well portrayed by both Jones and Redmayne, with Jane being a complex character rather than just the two-dimensional characterisation of the doting and supportive wife. Even when she is acting in a selfish and duplicitous way you still aren’t totally set against her, you can see things from multiple of angles.

It is both a very sad story, but also incredibly uplifting. And, if Redmayne doesn’t win the Best Actor Oscar something is very wrong with the world.

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