Eddie Redmayne is superb in The Theory of Everything. His performance seems to go beyond just imitating Stephen Hawking, he practically becomes the man, mimicking his illness, mannerisms and situation to what seems like perfection. When you hear that Stephen Hawking felt like he was watching himself when viewing the movie, you know that he must have been doing something right.
It’s just one of the many triumphs of the movie though. Stephen Hawking is an incredible man, with an incredible story but it’s not necessarily one that instantly screams movie success. I knew of his work in physics and theories about time and I obviously knew about his battle with motor neuron disease but I wasn’t sure what else there would be apart from watching a person succumb to the disease while making brilliant discoveries.
It doesn’t take long to realise the complexity of the story. Motor neuron disease is a heartbreaking disease, particularly when someone who relies on his intelligence as much as Hawking does, is told “you’ll have your thoughts, but nobody will be able to hear them.” This is Redmayne’s major success, he sells the slow, deterioration that the disease causes, while also making Hawking such an appealing person himself.
This isn’t really a movie about Hawking’s disease or his brilliant theories though, they form a backdrop to what the movie really concerns itself with, a love story. This is Hawking’s life from his wife’s perspective, retelling the story of their relationship and their battle with motor neuron disease together.
It means that the movie isn’t just Redmayne’s but is also Felicity Jones’ as Jane Hawking. She arguably goes through a huge transformation of her own. Not the physical one that Redmayne must undergo, but she changes from the bubbly, positive love-struck graduate to the full-time carer for a famous husband. The movie depends on her performance just as much as Redmayne’s and she delivers equal to him.
In fact, their story is a complicated one. This isn’t necessarily a movie about triumph, although Hawking’s ability to overcome the disease is obviously highlighted and rightfully focused upon, it’s about the effects his life has on those closest to him. It’s a testament to the film that although both central characters will do things that many would deem negative or deplorable, you never root against them and even find sympathy in their misjudged actions.
It’s not the perfect movie. The performances won’t make up for a slight lull in narrative between the second and third act but you’ll never be bored and each step of Redmayne’s tranformation will amaze and make up for any shortcomings the overall tale may have.
Overall, The Theory of Everything has probably given us the best performance we will see this year… and we are only ten days in. Redmayne becomes Hawking to a degree that astonishes and is then matched in a great performance from Felicity Jones that will both bring joy, inspiration and also heartbreak. The story is an interesting one but it will be the performances from the stars that you’ll remember.
Rating – 4
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