This is a story about love. This is a story about one kid growing up. I had sixteen, very insecure as all teenagers are, and I sent an email to my idol at the time. We had some personal connections, nobody knew about and I’ve sent that email without expecting an answer at all. A few days later, first answer followed, then it was good, old fashioned letter in the post-office and I felt like I could fly. The world was mine. The answer to the letter was encouraging and reassuring, all my complexes seemed to be washed away with it and I was (and I still am) very grateful for that. That idol I’m talking about is Stephen Hawking, he with ALS, me with cerebral palsy in one moment had strong connection that was, admittedly, more important to me than for him. One particular moment in my growing up is the reason why this review can’t be objective, can’t be “with no strings attached” as (we are often learned) all good reviews should be.
“Theory of Everything” is about Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Jane (Felicity Jones). Their relationship from its beginning to the bitter end is the main subject of the movie. “Theory of Everything” is also Holy Grail of Physics. One theory to include them all. One great theory that will explain the Universe. It’s argumentative to claim that in this movie love is the answer for that theory, especially if we know how the Hawking’s marriage ended up, but I will say that nonetheless. ALS is a nasty disease, and with it people often have very short life expectancy. Stephen Hawking conquered all prognoses and he’s still alive and kicking even forty years after he was first diagnosed. It seems very pathetic that love is the force behind that, but from my personal experience I can say that in the moments like that will is the most important factor. You must have will to defy all prognoses, all what the doctors tell you. And for a will like that you have to have a reason. Love is the most powerful of all reasons one can find.
Eddie Redmayne is phenomenal in his excellent role of Hawking. Even Hawking said that he was not sure was him or the actor on the screen. His brilliant performance is truly “Oscar” worthy and he’s my main favorite for the award. It’s always hard to play the role of physically disabled people, but he did that so convincingly that when I compare him to some living ALS patients I know, he seems as real as them. That’s the biggest compliment I can give, and that alone together with “My Left Foot”, “Inside I’m Dancing” and “Intouchables” makes “Theory of Everything” one of the best movies that have ever tackled that theme.
Felicity Jones in her role of Jane Hawking also catches the eye. She’s supportive, but she’s not lacking characterization depth and her biggest strength is her stubbornness even in the moments when it’s clear that marriage is falling apart. In a very touching moment, when they had their third child and everybody is concerned that Hawking isn’t the father she truly shines. In that particular (and easily imaginable) moment we can see all depths of Jones’s acting. Her reaction was so convincing and natural that nobody doubted about true answer to that offensive suggestion. Hawking is handicapped, but he isn’t incompetent. In the phase in which Hawking finds out about his disease, he was hard to manage and auto-destructive. He drunk a lot and he was the greatest enemy to himself. That phrase touches in the movie, but it’s also a great screen moment for Felicity Jones. She’s represented as the one that pulled Hawking from the brink, and that’s for all I know really true. Some critics have written that “nasty details” of their marriage are not portrayed in the movie, but I don’t think they should be. The emphasis of the movie is not on Hawking’s genius or his disability. Relationship between two of them is. And that relationship didn’t fall apart because of the “all nasty moments”; it has fallen apart because of two people who just got tired of each other. As often as it is in the relationships, they are not straight lines. I also can see some lacking of the dramatic conflict here, but I’m truly impressed with “humanity” of the story.
James Marsh directed the movie with enough empathy to avoid too much corny scenes and his approach to the subject is admirable. Especially the way he involved Jonathan Hellyer Jones (Charlie Cox) character in the dual story was close to the real situations I had the chance to witness. I said in the beginning that I can’t be truly objective in this review. Maybe because of that sixteen year old boy from the beginning who was fighting his complexes of cerebral palsy, maybe because of the sentence my chemistry teacher said to me in high-school: “That’s how you recognize a great people, how they react to the small-ones.” Small ones like that sixteen year old. However, even if it’s not an objective review, you can be sure it’s sincere. “Theory of Everything” is a biographical film about love, about fighting the impossible odds but it’s made differently. This is NOT a film about Stephen Hawking and his genius, this is certainly not a film about his disability. This is about the creation and the break-up of a relationship too intense to last. In that regard it maybe won’t fulfill everybody’s exceptions. Mine are met and I’ll admit to you, when you consider all mentioned above, that was not particularly hard.