Inspired by the memoir of Stephen Hawking’s first wife, Jane Hawking, the British biographical film The Theory of Everything is a potential Oscar contender that brings the life and struggles of the famous physicist to life. Both the book and film cover Stephen and Jane’s blossoming relationship followed by Stephen’s battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and his struggle to receive his PhD in physics while battling the onset of his disease. Stephen Hawking and Jane Hawking are portrayed in the film by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, respectively.
Do not go into The Theory of Everything expecting to come out a learned astrophysicist. As a work of fiction, it is more of a love story than a direct adaptation or documentary. Knowing that Hawking, and other physicists, would see the film, director James Marsh and screenwriter Anthony McCarten brought a physics adviser on set to make sure that the science and math presented in the film were accurate. This results in many of Hawking’s concepts being put in layman’s terms, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a film.
The film is visually striking, which is supplemented by Marsh’s masterful direction of Redmayne and Jones who both deserve Academy nods for their performances. It stands as a complementary piece to Interstellar in that it appeals to man’s quest for knowledge and our thirst to understand our place within the universe. McCarten’s script provides us with a couple whose relationship feels neither cheesy nor formulaic. The characters feel authentic in their battle to make their relationship work, despite many of the obstacles they face. All elements coalesce to make The Theory of Everything a poignant, touching effort.
The film has received critical acclaim, with much praise being directed at the performances of Redmayne and Jones. Even Stephen Hawking himself enjoyed the film, with his nurse admitting that she had to wipe away his tears at a screening. However, not all reviews of the film have been positive. Some claim the film takes too many creative liberties with it’s source material for dramatic effect.