I’m slightly disappointed by The Theory of Everything. I expected it to be a moving, true account of Stephen Hawking’s life and work and it’s really only one of those things.
Eddie Redmayne is fantastic as Professor Hawking. He morphs from lanky adorkable nerd to a withered man in a wheelchair, barely able to express himself completely convincingly. I’d hesitate to call it a “powerhouse performance” due to the fact that although it’s an awesome turn, it’s sold with subtle moments. Redmayne manages to express so much with a look or a twitch which is an incredible achievement and worthy of the Oscar joy awarded to him.
Just as good is Felicity Jones as Hawking’s wife Jane. She has to carry the emotional heft of the film and does so masterfully. She also undergoes the best handled arc in the film- her slow transformation from a naïve schoolgirl to a super-tough and emotionally burdened woman. The film makes the point of Hawking’s unwavering personality, despite his massive physical changes. Jane is a very different person at the end of the film than she is at the start and Jones’ performance completely sells it.
My trouble is the focus of the film. It’s more about a love story than anything else. Whilst this is not a bad thing by itself, I feel it falls into standard biopic tragic romance territory a bit too readily. I’ve always felt that biopics live and die on making you understand why the person in question is film worthy in the first place. Had I not known who Hawking is going into the film, I may have left not understanding Stephen Hawking‘s impact on the world. His accomplishments are more in the background and I feel that misses the point of a film about Stephen Hawking. There’s no real analysis or criticism of the great man himself and it all feels a little too safe.
The Theory of Everything is fine for what it is. It clearly had eyes on appealing to awards voters and styled its approach around that. I always feel that the awards checklist approach usually leads to a shallower film, not confident in what it wants to do or say. I can’t help but feel that The Theory of Everything is a slightly compromised film because of all that. Don’t get me wrong, the film can be funny and heartbreaking in equal measures, but I felt I needed more understanding of the huge leaps in science and mathematics that Hawking was responsible for with his unique mind. The two central performances are good enough to earn a recommendation alone. It’s a well made film with some beautiful cinematography too. However, its eagerness to slip into genre conventions made it less special for me. Still, it’s a fairly solid film and worthy of your time.
Genre: Drama, Biography |Distributor: Universal Pictures | BD Release Date: 11th May 2015 (UK) | Rating: 12 | Director: James Marsh | Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, David Thewlis, Emily Watson | Buy: [Blu-ray]