Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything (2014)
Biography, Drama, Romance, 123 minutes
Directed by James Marsh
Starring Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones and David Thewlis

Good films can hold my attention even when I have very little interest in the subject matter. I'm sure that most people have heard of Stephen Hawking, but I doubt that many of us think too deeply about what he has achieved. His synthesized voice appeared on Pink Floyd's Division Bell and he featured on an episode of Star Trek Next Generation, but what is he like as a person?

The Theory of Everything answers that question and provides insight about how life would be if we lost the power to walk and talk without mechanical assistance.

You might imagine that Hawking's story is dry and boring. After all, he's a scientist, and they just think about mathematics, don't they? I am happy to say that this film deserves its five Oscar nominations and is anything but boring. At its very heart, The Theory of Everything is a romance, but this is a moving story with moments of comedy. By the end of the film, you will be inspired and uplifted, if you care about any other human beings at all.

At the beginning of the film, Hawking (Redmayne) is young and socially awkward. He meets Jane (Jones) at a party and gets her phone number. He's obviously intelligent, but it's his charm that impresses Jane. Redmayne's performance shows Hawking as a likeable and humorous man. When we learn of his disease, we feel something. However, Jane is not deterred by his gloomy prognosis. The two decide to marry and make the most of whatever time they can have together.

Time is another important theme in the story. As Hawking impresses his Cambridge University professor (Thewlis) with his theories about time and the universe, I couldn't help contemplating my own existence. The film made me realize that everyone has a chance to contribute something to the world. In some ways I feel ashamed that I have wasted much of my own life with trivial matters.

I won't reveal any more of the story, but I want to emphasize how good the film is. It made me think of The King's Speech and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and that's a huge compliment. Jones and Redmayne have good chemistry and their relationship seems real.

If you are worried that the subject matter may be too depressing, I think it's safe to say that the overall feel is uplifting. Yes, you will see some of Hawking's struggles, but you'll also understand the immensity of his achievements.

Where there is life, there is hope.

Hawking reportedly approves of the film and commented that Redmayne's performance was so good that he felt he was seeing himself on the screen. I have to agree that it is an excellent performance.

Too many movies cater to audiences that demand instant gratification and thrills. The Theory of Everything will make you think and feel something. Ultimately, you will remember the story and take something from it if you are the type of person who likes to think beyond the immediate moment.

Overall score 4.5/5

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