Film Review: James Marsh, The Theory of Everything (2014)

The Theory of Everything (2014) Poster

‘There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.’

Age Rating: 12+
Genre: Biographical Drama
Overall Rating: ★★★★★

I had been long anticipating the release date of this film and as I bought my ticket I was terribly anxious that it should live up to expectations. I had heard excellent things about the acting and the integrity of the screenplay, and am ecstatic to say that I was not disappointed in the slightest.

The movie itself wasn’t a cinematic masterpiece, but it was filmed in such a way as to allow its strengths to prevail. Achingly long close-ups on faces created moments of total immersion in the emotion of many scenes, with not a twitch out of place on Eddie Redmayne (Stephen Hawking) or Felicity Jones’ (Jane Hawking) expressions. The cinematography was also delectable, from the moody atmosphere of the dawn-time Cambridge streets in the opening scenes to the warm glow illuminating the inside of Jonathan Hellyer Jones’ (Charlie Cox) church, punctuated neatly with a variation of long and brief shots and an excellent eye for detail on the part of James Marsh. The light of the stars which so fascinated Hawking shone throughout the film: the majesty of the St John’s May Ball with its twinkling lights and intoxicating moments of movement and tranquility echoed the fiery constellations made of Stephen Hawking’s eyes and the brilliance of the opera in Geneva as its dazzling lights silhouette Redmayne’s fitful form. This makes for a lovely sense of continuity, subtle and integrated perfectly naturally into the cinematography.

Then there was the acting itself. Although the sheer power of Redmayne’s performance was the driving force of the plot, Felicity Jones was triumphant as Hawking’s devoted, determined and (ultimately) drained wife. While Redmayne contortions and mangled voice made me remind myself he does not suffer from motor neurone disease in actuality, it would never have the power it did command over the audience without Jones’ unerringly perfect execution of the emotional turmoil of Jane Hawking. The control which she executed in scene after scene over her every movement made for an exquisite viewing experience that demanded sympathy. Upon the arrival of Maxine Peake as Elaine Mason, Hawking’s long-awaited professional nurse, the weight lifted from Mrs Hawking’s shoulders was made so tangibly physical by Jones that the whole theatre felt lighter, even as we were made giddy by the similar elation of Redmayne’s Hawking.

As an adaptation of Jane Hawking’s Travelling to Infinity, the screenplay stays satisfyingly close to the original plot and events of the book, with only truly minor changes to chronology for dramatic purposes being exacted, without the usual Hollywood baloney of the phrase “based on a true story”. Finished off with a neat bow by Jóhann Jóhannsson’s soundtrack (which is suitably moving, if nothing extraordinary), The Theory of Everything will be a strong candidate for the Academy’s Best Actor/Actress awards, although perhaps not much else. Despite this, it is a wonderful film, and the work put in by the actors and the director shines through; they truly deserve all the praise they will, I’m sure, receive – more than deserving of their five stars.

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