Stephen Hawking has changed the way we look at the night sky, and this week Eddie Redmayne takes on the role of the famous theoretical physicist and cosmologist in a film that takes a look at the man behind the theories.
Motor Neurone Disease was thrust into public awareness earlier this year, with the Ice Bucket Challenge craze sweeping the globe, and Stephen Hawking is perhaps one of the most famous living people with the disease. Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Hawking, both before and after the disease left him confined to a wheelchair, is simply extraordinary. It seems as though Redmayne, in order to play Hawking, embraced the challenge and plays the role as a brilliant man who is determined to find something new and wonderful in the world, and does not allow his diagnosis to deter him. Redmayne never allows his performance to feel like mimicry, instead this feels like an organic performance; one that is hugely touching and engaging.
The rest of the actors in The Theory of Everything are cast in Redmayne’s shadow, but equally give strong performances; Felicity Jones is strong and warm as Jane Hawking, Harry Lloyd is at once carefree and caring as Brian, and Christian McKay and David Thewlis shine as Hawking’s mentors.
Anthony McCarten’s screenplay is based on Jane Hawking’s book Traveling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen, and it focuses on the personal life of the man whose theories are groundbreaking. In this way, the huge personal struggles that Hawking has faced become the truly groundbreaking aspect of the film, and the public persona of Hawking; one we are familiar with, is allowed to fade into the background. The screenplay allows the audience to see a different, funny and self-deprecating side of Hawking, but if there were to be a problem with The Theory of Everything, it would be the fact that somehow, the story feels a little unsatisfactory at times. Perhaps it is the dream sequence toward the end, which is certainly not needed, or the fact that a true balance between work and life is never struck, but for a film with such an inspirational character and such an incredible performance from a leading man, there are times when the whole affair falls a little flat.
Director James Marsh, whose previous films include Shadow Dancer, Man on Wire and the wonderful Project Nim has created a world where the audience feels at home, and Stephen Hawking shines. The cast do a great job and, although the film meanders at times, it is, on the whole, engaging and emotionally wrought.
In all, The Theory of Everything is a touching and engaging story that is anchored by an extraordinary performance from Eddie Redmayne. There are times when proceedings fall a little flat, but this is a story about overcoming the things that life throws at us in order to be great, and to be happy, which is just about the most human story of them all.