Those who recognize the name “Stephen Hawking” will likely know him for his unique robotic voice and as one of the world’s most brilliant minds who seems to know more about the workings of the universe than any other human being. All the things we don’t know are captured in the movie The Theory of Everything, which is loosely based on the memoir by Hawking’s first wife, Jane Hawking.
The movie focuses on Hawking as a graduate student at Cambridge and his blossoming relationship with Jane, a smart and ambitious woman who was also studying at Cambridge, as well as the progression of his disease and how it affected their lives. Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with motor neuron disease while he was still at Cambridge and has lived with the disease for over 50 years. Motor neuron disease is also referred to as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease and is mostly considered fatal; in fact, Hawking was originally given about two years to live. Hawking is a physical and mental marvel and The Theory of Everything follows his extraordinary life from 1963 to 1989.
Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones star as Stephen and Jane Hawking and both deliver performances that deserve all the recognition and awards they have received. Redmayne’s portrayal is nothing short of Oscar-worthy and must have been very difficult physically and mentally. Jane Hawking has said that she felt as if Felicity Jones stole her identity as she plays her so flawlessly. It is absolutely devastating watching them struggle as the disease slowly takes away Hawking’s mobility and speech. We watch as he becomes completely dependent on Jane and is left with nothing but his own thoughts and no means by which to share them with the world; that is, until the computer comes along to help him.
At its core, The Theory of Everything is a touching and tragic love story but it also touches on the brilliance of Hawking’s theories in quantum mechanics and relativity. It is heavy on emotions and light on the mathematics, which makes the movie universally appealing, especially since the topics Hawking studied are far beyond the understanding of the average person, particularly those who have not read his best-selling book “A Brief History of Time”. The movie doesn’t hold back and the Hawkings’ struggle is shown as something real and not just Hollywood fluff.
Even though a movie’s soundtrack can sometimes go unnoticed by movie-goers, the score by Jóhann Jóhannsson is beautiful and compliments the story well, while stirring up emotions right through to the end credits.
With the success of the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” in 2014, one can only hope that all of those who donated but had no concept of the disease will watch this film and finally get a glimpse of what ALS does to people and their families, especially those who are not as lucky to live as long as Stephen Hawking has.