Movie Review - The Theory of Everything (2014)

This movie is a definite tearjerker. Even the trailer for it made me cry. This biopic about physicist and cosmologist Dr. Stephen Hawking who suffers from what's commonly called ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease, a paralyzing disease, really started to make me cry when Hawking, played by Eddie Redmayne, gets his diagnosis and we see his and his girlfriend Jane's reaction. It's heartbreaking because the initial diagnosis in 1963 said Hawking only had two years to live and Jane made the decision to stay with him despite the hardship it places on both. I was constantly wiping my eyes through the revelation of all of it.

Redmayne is a young, good-looking boy and his transformation into the deformed, paralyzed, elder man that most know today is incredible. Director James Marsh scene after scene shows the progression of the illness. In one scene, he twitches. The next, he has a cane, and on and on, until he ends up totally immobile.

The devolution of Stephen's ability to walk and the evolution of his wheelchairs are obviously sad things, but Marsh and Redmayne keep it not so heavy or they find the levity in the situation. One scene involving Stephen going up stairs is devastating but another of him going up stairs is hilarious. Both of which pivot on Stephen's look at his children or his ability to have them.

Felicity Jones co-stars as Jane. It's not sure what she sees in Stephen the first time they meet at a college party. They couldn't be more different. He's a scientist. She's more into art and literature, in terms of her studies. He's an atheist and she's quite religious, a regular church-goer in fact. Like most people, she probably became fascinated with Stephen's intellect and his theories about space and time, recognizing his sheer genius.

I wish more would have been made of his atheism versus her faith, but it seemed never to be an issue for them. There is a scene involving peas and potatoes that acknowledge the tension, but that's as far as it goes. His debilitating disease doesn't even seem to be an issue at first. Jane signs up to marry Stephen with the thought he would be dead in two years. Yet, he goes on to live for another 50 years, so the issue between them becomes Jane's frustration with being Stephen's nurse and constant care-giver for way longer than she imagined.

The one thing that is implied but never depicted is the sex life between Stephen and Jane. Even after Stephen becomes confined to a wheelchair, Jane becomes pregnant. People assume Jane has had an affair, especially with a very handsome, able-body and lonely choir directed named Jonathan, played by Charlie Cox. Yet, the mechanics of their sex life is something that continues, so it would have been interesting to see how that worked and how that may or may not have contributed to his eventually ending his marriage.

There is a British TV series called Emmerdale on ITV. A couple of years ago, the daily serial did a story where two, young, gay men named Aaron and Jackson, played respectively by Danny Miller and Marc Silcock. In the story, Aaron and Jackson were lovers, but Jackson became paralyzed, not by disease but by car accident. Jackson though was like Stephen Hawking in that his body was totally useless and all he could do was speak. However, that show dealt with the problems that Jane encounters in a more interesting way.

Marsh is pretty straight-forward in his telling of Stephen's life till the present. Given what happens to him, there's some parallels to draw between this and Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Schnabel is much more of a visual painter and directs his 2007, Oscar-nominated film with more flair and much more of a point-of-view that rises it above this one.

Four Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and suggestive material.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 3 mins.


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