Sunday, 15 February 2015

Film Review: The Theory of Everything



The Theory of Everything is the story of Stephen Hawking, one of the most celebrated physicists of the 20th Century, and his wife Jane. 

Starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones (both of whom are Oscar-nominated for this film), it sees the duo journey through adversity and hardship as the famed scientist is struck by motor neurone disease at the young age of 21.


From their first encounter in 1962 as students at Cambridge University in England right up until the present day, The Theory of Everything is not simply a straight-forward biopic of one extraordinary man and his battle against adversity.

Instead, the film widens its focus to encompass both Stephen and Jane, two strong and intelligent people that have one amazing (and emotionally complex) story that is simultaneously about the vastness of science and the minute details of love. 

It goes without saying that Eddie Redmayne's lead performance in this film is astounding. The statement might seem a little redundant, but the point is this - his performance makes the film what it is. He commits to the role so wholeheartedly that the lines between actor and character are virtually invisible. You reach a point where you can no longer see the distinction between life and fiction as Redmanye and his subject become one.

Furthermore, whilst a lot of praise is being heaped upon Redmayne in this film (and rightly so of course), it doesn't go unnoticed that his co-star Felicity Jones is equally as superb playing Jane Hawking. Jane's sheer determination is admirable and the further the plot advances the more we begin to appreciate the strength and the complexity of her life. This is particularly noticeable once John (Charlie Cox) and Elaine (Maxine Peake) enter the scene. Together, Redmayne and Jones compose a delicate and affecting tale of love and companionship that far surpasses any trash EL James can throw at the screen this Valentine's Day weekend.

My main issue with The Theory of Everything is how it feels compelled to trot through every moment of Hawking's career, from doctorate student 'til now. For me, the most compelling part of the film was Hawking's time at university as he grapples with the early indications of MND and how that affects his studies after his diagnosis.

After dealing with this the plot leaps forward to Hawking receiving his doctorate before plunging straight into marriage, children and beyond. It means that whilst the film does a fantastic job of covering his entire life, it never plumbs the details of one specific point in particular. This is also a criticism I had of last year's Mandela biopic, The Long Walk to Freedom (although on a much smaller scale).

The Theory of Everything also can't decide whether it wants to prioritise Hawking's work or his relationships. Lines are dropped here and there, but for the most part, details on Hawking's various theorems and landmarks fall by the wayside, unlike The Imitation Game that was centred very firmly on a distinct achievement (cracking the Enigma Code and ending the Second World War). I think I preferred the latter because it felt more focused and concise.

There are vast chunks of the film where I felt like the script was just checking off moments in his life like running down a grocery list.

One of the film's strongest suits is the scoring from Johann Johannsson. It's an enchanting and dreamy piece that captures the essence of Hawking's determination and passion for discovery. Coupled with some gorgeous direction from James Marsh, and The Theory of Everything certainly excels on a visual level.

The Verdict: 7.5/10


The Theory of Everything's serviceable narrative is anchored by two incredible performances and a soaring score from Jóhann Jóhannsson. Redmayne gives it his all whilst Jones is a revelation - just don't expect the plot to keep you hooked from start to finish. 

8 comments:

  1. You criticism of the film is probably the one reason why I've always defended A Beautiful Mind, despite the schmaltz, because it took the time to truly flesh out an important aspect/time in Nash's life. I haven't seen Theory yet, but I intend to. Great, balanced review.

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    1. Thanks Fisti :) I think I prefer biopic's that home in on a specific element of someone's life, rather than attempting to cram in a whole life. I prefer something like Rush or Saving Mr Banks to Jobs or The Long Walk To Freedom any day. I know that those are some really different films in terms of what they set out to do, but when a movie tries to cover so much it leaves things behind and lacks momentum. Anyway, thanks for commenting! :)

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  2. Great review! I agree with almost everything said here. Jones and Redmayne are great, but the film is just bland and under-dramatic.

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    1. Thanks Tanner, glad you agree! :) At least Redmayne comes out of it looking good - he'll most likely get that Oscar this weekend (right?)

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  3. Great review! I loved this film in all it's baity glory. lol

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    1. That's not a bad way of putting it Brittani! :)

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  4. Very nice review! Theory of Everything was one of my favorite movies of the Oscars. I loved how the relationship between Stephen and Jane, and their struggles, were showcased throughout their lives. The story didn't seem to delve further but skidded through aspects of his life.

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    1. Thanks Katy! :) I wouldn't say it was one of my favourites (that would be Imitation Game/Birdman) but it's pretty good nonetheless.

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