Of all the big, showy Oscar contenders The Theory of Everything certainly isn’t the flashiest, but backed by two of the year’s finest performances, this intimate drama is a revealing and engaging look at one of the more fascinating individuals of this generation.
While pursuing his PhD at Cambridge, Stephen Hawking (Redmayne, Les Misérables [Blu-ray]) encounters Jane (Felicity Jones). The two quickly hit it off, but their blossoming relationship is threatened when Stephen is diagnosed with ALS.
Even though his family and even Stephen himself suggest Jane won’t be able to handle the taxing demands of a future with him, Jane won’t so easily turn away and the two soon marry. And while his body is quickly betraying him, Stephen’s mind remains brilliant as he seeks to explore the origin of the universe.
In adapting Jane Hawking’s book, screenwriter Anthony McCarten not so surprisingly portrays her in a far more sympathetic light. Stephen Hawking found the film balanced though as he lent awards and his copyrighted voice to the production.
As the story is told from Jane’s perspective, Director James Marsh spends the bulk of the film showing her strength in being the rock and support to Stephen and their children at the cost of a more ‘regular’ life. McCarten could have offered more of what Jane’s life was like beyond being Stephen’s caretaker such as how they paid for expenses, if she has friends and what were her interests that she sacrificed to keep their home running.
It’s why we can be more forgiving when Marsh so obviously telegraphs a potential romantic interest in the form of Jonathan Jones (Charlie Cox, Daredevil), a lonely church choir leader who takes an interest in the Hawking family. Even in the tease of infidelity isn’t enough to make the audience turn on Jane considering all she’s asked to do in caring for Stephen.
Redmayne thrives in the most physically-demanding role of the year. He contorts his body in amazing fashion conveying so much with the slightest gesture or glance. Redmayne wonderfully exhibits Hawking’s physical deterioration while maintaining his dignity so you never view Hawking as a feeble invalid, but a fighter continuing to overcome his physical limitations. Redmayne is an easy lock for a Best Actor Oscar nomination and wouldn’t be an upset if he ends up with the award.
Likewise for Jones, who also should be in line for a Best Actress nod. As challenging as Redmayne’s role is, Jones has an equally formidable task and through her performance we watch Jane grow from a wide-eyed young girl full of optimism to a woman of incredible strength wearing down from decades of sacrifice.
Rather than resorting to flashy, obstructive camera tricks, Marsh finds greater meaning in the quieter simple moments. Occasionally that works against him as the movie feels a little too simple and low-key at times, but that reserved sense of storytelling is some of the film’s charm. Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score adds a certain elegance to the film to give those quiet scenes more weight. When
Everything is an acting showcase film and it’s got all it needs in the fantastic performances of Redmayne and Jones to help share the love story of two extraordinary people.