The arrival of January is not all drizzle and gloom as it traditionally marks the start of Oscar Season in the cinema. Despite not having seen the trailer The Theory of Everything had picked up enough traction and pre-nomination buzz to convince me that it was worth a look.
I am too lazy to keep up any pretence that I knew a single factoid about Stephen Hawking before I entered the screen. I knew nothing and I am happy to live in ignorance and allow any fictional embellishments to pass me by.
PLOT: While writing his PHD at Cambridge University Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease. Despite being given two years to live Hawking goes on to be one of the greatest physicists of our time. END PLOT
The Theory of Everything provided a very engaging introduction to an individual I really should know more about. I was surprised to see that The Theory of Everything focused as much on Hawking’s wife Jane (Felicity Jones) as Hawking himself. The film was more of a drama which focused on a family living with a degenerative illness rather than a biopic of Hawking’s life and achievements. I suppose this was to be expected given that the script is based on Jane Hawking’s book rather than any official memoir of Stephen Hawking’s.
The script touched over the major events in Hawking’s life but didn’t delve into them in any great detail. It felt like the film was made up of individual set pieces chronicling random events with the passage of time being marked by the various hairstyles of Felicity Jones. This worked, but only just, as there were occasions when I couldn’t shake the feeling that the film was dragging its heels. There was thankfully enough heart and light humour to keep the film from becoming too dry.
Any pacing or plot flaws can be forgiven by the performance of Eddie Redmayne who gets top marks for commitment. I never had any particular opinion of Redmayne before today but his portrayal of Hawking took me completely by surprise and he deserves credit for it. The last time I watched an actor become totally immersed in his character was Michael Fassbender in Shame. It is a rare treat to watch.
Eddie Redmayne had great chemistry with Felicity Jones which made their scenes together a pleasure to watch. The supporting cast was made up of familiar British faces and much fun was to be had with the “where do I know him from?” game. The answer was usually Harry Potter. There was no weak link in the acting department but unfortunately no attempt was made to flesh out any of the supporting characters, for example, Stephen's best friend Brian (the charming Harry Lloyd) went missing for huge chunks of time but was always available to attend a garden party.
The Theory of Everything is held together by the performances of Redmayne and Jones and although the plot needed some more depth it is worth at least one viewing. The Theory of Everything gets a very respectable 8/10. The problem is it is hard to imagine a scenario in my life that would compel me to watch this film again. This is was stops a good film from becoming great.