18 October 2015

The Theory of Everything (starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones)

Although I’ve very much enjoyed the dramatised biographical films I’ve seen in the past few years, I was a bit reluctant to watch this particular one. Stephen Hawking is a brilliant man, and I have enormous respect both for his brilliant mind and for the way he’s kept going, fighting against the odds of motor neuron disease. But I thought it might be depressing to watch someone develop a terrible disease that took away his dignity and control. I was also aware that he’s well-known as an outspoken atheist.

However, my husband put ‘The Theory of Everything’ on his wishlist, and was given the blu-ray for a recent birthday. He sat down to watch it with our adult son, and after a bit of persuasion, I agreed to watch the first few minutes….

I was almost immediately hooked. We first meet Stephen Hawking, brilliantly played by the actor Eddie Redmayne, when he’s at university. He looks decidedly geeky, and is evidently brilliant but has a casual attitude towards studying and time-keeping. There are odd moments of clumsiness, too, which foreshadow the disease he’s soon to develop.

Jane (Felicity Jones) is an attractive English student who finds herself drawn to Stephen; she doesn’t understand everything he talks about, but is still able to engage him in intellectual discussion and banter, and they quickly become close.

Stephen’s descent into motor neuron disease happens suddenly and dramatically, and is very well done. His prognosis of no more than two more years to live is ironic to those of us watching the film, knowing that he’s lived more than fifty years with the illness, and has managed in that time to write books and give lectures with the help of artificial speech and writing implements, which have advanced in their capabilities as the real Hawking’s illness has become worse.

The scientific side of Stephen’s life, and his astounding theories are presented clearly yet without becoming jargon-ridden or impossible to understand. We also follow his personal life, which I knew almost nothing about, coping from day to day with his increasing limitations, testing his wife’s patience and endurance to the full. She knew what she was embarking on when she married him, but not that he would live so long or become so incapacitated. And her gradual change from confidence and love to stress and worry is movingly done.

It’s a powerful story, and a brilliantly done film. One of the extras on the blu-ray gives insights into the research that the two main characters did, in order to portray the real Stephen and Jane - an incredible amount of work, done partly in conjunction with the two real people themselves.

What struck me most, I think, was Stephen's dry sense of humour, which remained with him despite his suffering; and his family life and relationship with his children. All in all, I thought it a wonderful film; thought-provoking, moving, and bittersweet.

Rated 12 due to mild bad language and low-key suggestive scenes. Unlikely to be of any interest to a younger child in any case.

Amazon links shown are to the DVD versions of this film, but it's also available on blu-ray.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's DVD Reviews

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