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Review: The Theory of Everything

November 6, 2014

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

The Theory of Everything Poster

The title of The Theory of Everything refers to Stephen Hawking’s (Eddie Redmayne) ongoing search for a “simple, elegant equation to explain everything,” and prove without question that time and space have a beginning.

This provides a profound backdrop to the moving romance that makes up the film, and to be sure, Anthony McCarten’s nicely written screenplay does have moments of intellectualism.

But this is an emotional story first and foremost, focusing primarily on the love between Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones), who helped him through his challenges with grace and quiet strength, as his life was forever changed by a heartbreaking diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease.

Through this central relationship, director James Marsh has assembled a beautifully filmed and very respectful biopic, charting the life of the renowned astrophysicist from his time as a student in 1963, to the publication of his groundbreaking bestseller A Brief History of Time in 1988.

Although Jane is a traditional Christian, and Stephen describes himself as an “intelligent atheist,” they find ways to accept and even understand each other’s differing beliefs, retaining their mutual respect and close relationship even as their marriage starts to break apart.  With the fine screenplay offering some thoughtful ideas about science versus religion, The Theory of Everything beautifully shows the emotional reasoning behind his research, and the natural want to discover the origins of life, as a way to prove that there is meaning in the universe.

Eddie Redmayne delivers an outstanding performance that is matched by a stunning physical transformation, perfectly embodying both the striking intelligence and surprising humour of the man he is representing.  There are many moments here that continue to resonate, like when he is struggling to get a shirt over his head or make his way up the stairs.  We see him losing muscle tone, before finally ending up paralyzed and in a wheelchair, and the actor flawlessly draws us in throughout every scene of the story.  Felicity Jones is also excellent, nicely displaying the determination of her character.

The film takes a stylistic approach to editing the final few scenes, recalling his almost wistful desire to “wind back the clock” and discover the origins of the universe, and this technique is both visually poetic and profoundly affecting.  With transformative work from Eddie Redmayne, movingly showing the deterioration of Stephen Hawking’s body as his mind continues to expand, The Theory of Everything is a poignant and also inspiring film that is elevated by the excellent cast.

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