The Theory Of Everything

Cert (UK): 12A

Runtime: 123 minutes

Director: James Marsh

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Emily Watson, Simon McBurney, David Thewlis, Charlie Cox and Maxine Peak

Rating: *****

I saw this film a little while ago, but have only just got to the point of reviewing it, since then it's becoming very obvious that Eddie Redmayne is going to sweep all before him and having won a BAFTA must be a firm favourite to bag a coveted Oscar. His performance is stunning, often moving and provides some insight into the early life of Stephen Hawking.

At the core of this movie is the love story between Hawking and his first wife Jane (Felicity Jones) and is an adaptation of her memoir Travelling to Infinity. Indeed within the very first few minutes they meet at a Cambridge University party in 1963, Hawking a slightly awkward and hunched student with a brilliant mind and a reluctance to conform; Jane a seemingly more grounded student of medieval poetry.

The two flirt as the relationship develops and the bonding between the two strengthens. With subtle indications that all may not be well, their world changes forever when Hawking crashes onto the flagstones of Trinity Hall.

He is diagnosed with motor neurone disease and given two years to live, as it transpired Jane devoted the best part of her life for thirty years to attending to him and their three children. One gets a sense of how challenging this must have been as the disease gradually envelopes Hawking, but the apparent lack of conflict between the two or sense of frustration at the predicament they find themselves in is not really addressed.  It gives a slightly rose tinted view of what must have been some desperately difficult times. Indeed the only differences of opinion they seem to have is an academic debate over the existence of God and the universe as a whole, which are conducted in a somewhat sanitized manner.

Once Hawking despairingly drags himself into a wheelchair, Jane meets Jonathan (Charlie Cox), a widowed choirmaster, who becomes an integral part of their family life. However, the relationship between Jane and Jonathan grows through to the point where she is torn between love and the responsibilty for the family she devotes everything to. Whether the relationship between the three of them was more uneven and stormy than portrayed here, we are not allowed to glimpse but again it does feel a little restrained in its depiction.

Nevertheless the film remains totally compelling as Redmayne delivers a performance that is totally flawless both in terms of its physicality and description of  the inner strength to overcome MND and yet remain even tempered with a sunny and endearing disposition.

Some scenes will live in the memory, namely Hawking inching his agonising way up the stairs of their home where his baby son Robert looks down on him, watching his father’s transition back to pre-toddler mobility.  Not a word is spoken, the harrowing events do not require them. Alternatively, there is the more optimistic discovery of the machine that becomes the voice of Hawking that we now all recognise and take for granted, but which hides his inner feelings.

However, once he enters what appears to be a quasi-platonic relationship with his nurse, Elaine Mason (Maxine Peake), the end of his marriage with Jane seems inevitable. In perhaps the most moving part of the film, the realisation that this moment has arrived sees Hawking in tears as the couple watch the many years of being together finally disintergrate.

So whilst the title of the film suggests its focus is Hawking’s quest for an all encompassing theory of the universe, it is much more about everyday life and relationships, brought to vividly to the screen by some fanatastic acting from Redmayne, a performance not to be missed.

(Written by Howard Groves)