The Theory of Everything movie review | The Financial Express

The Theory of Everything movie review

The SCIENTIST Stephen Hawking is still looking for that “one simple equation that explains everything…

Movie: The Theory of Everything | Director: James Marsh | Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, David Thewlis

Rating: ***

The SCIENTIST Stephen Hawking is still looking for that “one simple equation that explains everything”. The person Stephen Hawking knows that life itself has a way of bucking theories. This film, despite a virtuoso performance by Redmayne, doesn’t allow him that courtesy.

Based on a memoir by Hawking’s first wife Jane (Jones), and directed by Oscar-winning director Marsh, The Theory of Everything smoothens all the rough edges of the scientist’s life. As if a celebrated physicist who writes best-selling books, shakes widely held scientific beliefs, and beats death can’t be liked as he is. So no, Hawking (Redmayne) has to be this awkward, charming lover; adorable, witty scientist; and then a loving, understanding husband, to a woman who, in her own account, threw a more honest light on their union. Hawking himself enjoys the reputation of not being very easy to get along with.

But the film will have none of it — neither the hard work of his science nor, in some ways, the harder work of making this marriage work. It only gives us a close look at the withering away of Hawking’s body under Lou Gehrig’s disease. Uncomfortable as it is, this only underlines the film’s determination to see Hawking the genius rather than Hawking the man.

We meet Hawking in 1963, as a graduate student at Cambridge, about to embark on his PhD. In little tics, small missed steps, and the objects he topples over, the disease has already started manifesting, but can be easily overlooked in the heady mix of academia and the chance meeting with the lovely, Church-going Jane.

The truth is finally evident after a ball that could fit in into a Disney fairytale. After a hard fall on the pavement, Hawking is told he has less than two years to live.

Hawking withdraws into a shell, till Jane provokes him into a game of croquet. In one of the film’s most animated scenes between the two, he plays desperately and feverishly, and she breaks down feeling his pain.

That’s the closest the film gets to depicting what being together could be like in such a situation. While the film faithfully depicts Hawking’s life, we see neither the trauma of a man talking about the timelessness of time when counting days himself, or his bitterness of fathoming the expanse of the cosmos while trapped in a wheelchair. His deductions, after lonely and presumably agonising hours of work, are reduced to warm flashes of brilliance.

Jane’s struggles with this marriage are as insipid, though the film does her more justice when she finds companionship outside. In Jones’s impressive portrayal, Jane is always a little short of breath, afraid to exhale, afraid of all that may tumble out. By the time Hawking’s nurse who would finally break their marriage comes in, Jane is too tired to put up a fight.

Jones also shines in the repressed arguments Jane has with Hawking over God. It’s clear He is very important to Jane, and it’s a debate she fears she long lost to her husband. The film itself has no such fears. In how The Theory of Everything approaches that topic, it hints that particular battle is far from over.

Call it the black hole.

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First published on: 17-01-2015 at 12:29 IST