Amazing!… In Theory.
When you think of Stephen Hawking what comes to mind? Brilliant physicist? Tragic crippling disease? One third Dalek? All the above?
So if you had any questions about his life you’d want to know what he was like before his muscular dystrophy, or perhaps how and when he deteriorated, maybe even how he became a household name and how he did so whilst in a wheelchair right?
What you probably don’t care about is how and why his first marriage broke up and how his second marriage came to be.
The theory of everything lingers too long on this part of his life. Maybe I’m alone in this respect but I like to think that people’s private lives are private and apart from anything else I find “hot celeb goss” as tedious as doing household chores whilst listening to white noise and being drip fed soylent green.
That’s not to say that it has been executed badly. Quite the opposite actually. It was as interesting as it could be, but the point is that it’s not what I wanted to see. The start and the end of this film is where it shines for me and a lot of that is down to a more interesting subject matter on display.
The remaining part of that interest is the sheer brilliance that’s drizzled on screen by Eddie Redmayne who plays Stephen Hawking. If you thought that you were watching an extended cut of a Stephen Hawking documentary you’d be readily excused. The on screen representation of Hawking’s diminishing motor system is startlingly realistic. It’s so convincing that it becomes easy to overlook the subtleties that Redmayne’s acting achieves by making Hawking appear to be a slightly nervous geek even among his fellow Cambridge elite.
Redmayne is surrounded by a supporting cast who are all on point and there is a real sense of friendship that shines through that silver screen. Yet this is a biopic through and through, it’s a story that is relatively well known so if you are not interested in his life, his affliction or his works then there is little in the film to tempt you.
Again, my only real gripe about the film is the amount of time devoted to Hawking’s personal life. It’s just not as interesting of visually striking as his formative years and also leaves a rather large plot hole. We see Hawking being lauded for his professional life then nothing for another hour of the film so when we get seeing his career he is suddenly a worldwide superstar who is jet setting off around the world and being ‘papped’ yet we don’t really see this rise to stardom and that is one of the most intriguing aspects of his life.
The only other thing I could hold against the film is its grainy aesthetic to match the 1970s setting. It’s been done a million times before and I it does add a level of realism to the on-screen imagery. In The Theory of Everything though a bit of polish would have been a better choice in my book. There is one moment that comes to mind to illustrate this: Hawking gazes up at the stars in wonderment, the camera then pans up to show the star filled sky but it’s grainy and lacks the splendour that a less grainy film quality could have easily added.
In summation the film is technically excellent. It is superbly acted and has a wonderful, if well known, story that’s well executed. However, insisting on having a major part of the film dedicated to marital life and overlooking the very thing he is famous for did very little for me. I’m certainly glad I saw film but it’s not something with any replay appeal, which to me counts for a lot but not everything… in theory.
- Portrayal of muscular degeneration
- Great performances all round
- If you want to know a bit more about Stephen Hawking
- Too much time spent on Hawking’s family life
- Displeasing visual aesthetic