Tuesday, September 16, 2014

TIFF 14 Film Review - The Theory of Everything

Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is at Cambridge graduate school in an elite class for Cosmology. His teacher (David Thewlis) gives out a series of near insolvable problem that Hawking immediate forgets until reminded by his roommate the morning its due. Hawking rushes to class  hands his answers in on a napkin with 8 of 9 questions correct.  The Theory of Everything is at the heart a love story between Stephen and Jane Hawking (Felicity Jones). They meet at a Cambridge party, Stephen invites Jane to a ball then she pledges to stand by him after a fall leads to tests determining that he has motor neurone disease which will cause his muscles to atrophy with death predicted in the next 24 months.

Director James Marsh presents the material in an even keeled manner each party have their foibles and flaws and the production shows the opposed realities of Hawking's physical deterioration versus the expanding of his mind and theories in perfect balance. Jane a linguistics undergrad student has a good grasps of Hawking theories speaking intelligently to them with family and friends even holding her own in discussions with Hawking himself.

Screenplay writer Anthony McCarten deals with the physical frailties in a step by step progression, first the right hand, then the fall, followed by uneven walking, cane and wheelchair which Hawking declares is only temporary when he first transfers into it from a chair. But as his body declines his intellect soars. He has talks before rooms full of academics, writes best sellers and invitations flow in to speak all over Europe and eventually in the United States. Meanwhile on the home front he has a growing family with Jane coping well with his condition until one particular ability fails.

Eddie Redmayne is brilliant as Hawking. His physical transformation on screen from a tall thin cheerful post grad student to a withered person trapped in an unresponsive body is stunning. Redmayne makes the action on screen very believable as he struggles with the basic of tasks at the dinner table or to even swallow a bit of water. Felicity Jones is on par with her performance as Jane Hawking. She is strong for her husband and family, fiercely loyal and brings him through every step of his deterioration save for one.

Hawking's teachings are portrayed in a straightforward way. The basics are provided allowing the viewer to grasp that at first to obtain his Doctorate he thinks one way then his later works completely opposes his earlier ideas.  There is also an intriguing background story and light debate between religion and science with Jane and Stephen spouting the virtues of opposite camps throughout the piece.

The Theory of Everything is a well rounded presentation of the relationship between two people with  superior intellect and even stronger wills. They take an initial two year diagnosis and build it into a full lifetime of family and memories. Director James Marsh steady hand presents all of the key points in their relationship along juxtaposed to Hawking's physical decline and academic success. It is a film that I can definitely recommend.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

The Theory of Everything | James Marsh | U.K. | 2014 |123 Minutes.

Tags; Biopic, Motor Neurone Disease, Cambridge University, Cosmology, Physicist, Science.

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