The Theory of Everything stars Birdsong‘s Eddie Redmayne as Professor Steven Hawking, who was also played, brilliantly, in the 2004 BBC film Hawking, by Benedict Cumberbatch. Both are going head-to-head in the 2015 Awards season, with the latter as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game.
A chance meeting at a University party in 1963 quickly puts Hawking together with his wife-to-be, Jane (the delectable Felicity Jones), culminating in her giving him her number, meaning that 50 years ago, you didn’t need Plenty of Fish or Tinder to hook up with great totty, they just came swarming around you like flies around a honey pot. We see Hawking theorise about the beginning of the universe, which is also what seems to get the ladies wet. Unfortunately, at the same time Professor Hawking begins to develop the symptoms of motor neurone disease, and there’s superb direction from James Marsh as the enormity of the situation hits home. With two years seemingly left to live, he needs to work out how to balance love with figuring out the origins of the universe. Well, if Felicity Jones was chasing after me, then the universe could do one.
I won’t go into detail about his life, since it’s well-documented, and if you don’t know the ins and outs of his life then it’s here for you to discover.
Redmayne is simply outstanding as Hawking. He brings everything you could ever want from the performance, and marks himself out not only as an actor who’s “one to watch”, but also one who has the ability to set himself ahead of the pack to become one of Britain’s defining character actors. There’s also an excellent co-lead (not supporting actress) in Felicity Jones, perfectly exhibiting how the strain is put upon their marriage. I forecase big things for the pair of them.
Despite this being based on Jane Hawking’s book, “Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen”, like recent celebrated Brit flick Pride, The Theory of Everything feels a bit soapified at times, in that, as her husband is led into the very room where the electron was discovered and the atom was split, his lecturer, Dennis Sciama (David Thewlis), pontificates obviously knowingly, “Who knows from where the next leap forward will come, or from whom?” He may as well climb up onto the roof and shout, “BEHOLD! IT IS THE FORTHCOMING PROFESSOR STEVEN HAWKING!!!”
Jane says at one point that if she could time travel, she’d go back to ‘The Roaring Twenties’. I can’t see anyone naming the current decade after anything so austentatious, especially since we’re in The Age of Austerity. After all, who will celebrate that? …apart from the bankers.
Of course, the good thing about filming at Cambridge, itself, is that the location hasn’t changed over the years – or I’m presuming it hasn’t since 1988/89. I can’t even remember, now, why we went there on a school trip, but I do remember that the room I was given, staying just one night, wasn’t exactly packed with all mod cons, and looked like a monastery and so I kept thinking I’d oversleep as I had no alarm clock. Cambridge and Oxford may be for some but, quite frankly, I was glad to get out of the place as it looked like I’d entered the Middle Ages.
The locations aren’t the only things that haven’t had to change. See those trains used in the film to depict the 1960s? That’s the current rolling stock of Northern Rail!
I could also argue that, at a certain point in his life in 1985 when Hawking is gravely ill, so – over 20 years since they first met – neither of them seem to have aged a day… but you couldn’t really apply the ‘Richard Linklater School of Filmmaking’ to every movie, in which the director shot his critically-acclaimed Boyhood over the course of 12 years.
The Theory of Everything has great actors, with support from Thewlis and the initially unrecognisable Simon McBurney (Archdeacon Robert in BBC2’s Rev) as Hawking’s father, Frank, plus blink-and-you’ll-miss-them appearances from Emily Watson as Jane’s mother, Beryl, and Game of Thrones star Charlotte Hope as one of Steven’s sisters, Philippa. Alas, despite all this, while the film is never dull, it is definitely quite plodding and, as a film, it didn’t wow me. In fact, it felt very pedestrian, which is a shame given the talent on display.
Running time: 124 minutes
Released: January 1st 2015
Format: 2.35:1 (ProRes 4:4:4 (1080/24p))
Director: James Marsh
Producers: Tim Bevan, Lisa Bruce, Eric Fellner and Anthony McCarten
Screenplay: Anthony McCarten (based on the book “Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen” by Jane Hawking)
Music: Jóhann Jóhannsson
Stephen Hawking: Eddie Redmayne
Jane Hawking: Felicity Jones
Dennis Sciama: David Thewlis
Brian: Harry Lloyd
Robert Hawking (Age 17): Tom Prior
Lucy Hawking (Age 14): Sophie Perry
Timothy Hawking (Age 8): Finlay Wright-Stephens
Diana King: Alice Orr-Ewing
Carter: Thomas Morrison
Ellis: Michael Marcus
Rees: Gruffudd Glyn
Beryl Wilde: Emily Watson
George Wilde: Guy Oliver-Watts
Frank Hawking: Simon McBurney
Mary Hawking: Lucy Chappell
Philippa Hawking: Charlotte Hope
Isobel Hawking: Abigail Cruttenden
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.