The Theory of Everything (10/10)
by Tony Medley
Running Time 123 minutes.
OK for children.
When I left the screening I thought that this is one of the most
beautiful, heartwarming, tear-jerking romantic movies I have ever seen.
Itís the story of Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne), the world renowned
astrophysicist, who was diagnosed in 1963 with motor neuron disease
(a.k.a. Lou Gehrigís disease) when he was 21 years of age and in
love with fellow student Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones).
Rather than abandoning him, though, Jane casts her destiny, discards her
personal ambitions, and marries him. Lucky for him because itís her
loving care that propels him onward. Brilliantly directed by James
Marsh, the sensitive screenplay by Anthony McCarten is based on Jane
Hawkingís book, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen.
But itís not just a story of a young woman casting aside her personal
ambitions and promising to devote her life to a man who would clearly be
severely disabled for the rest of their lives, but whose prognosis was,
at best, to die in 2 years. It also shows the young man's will to live
and how he becomes internationally renowned despite his tragic disease.
What he goes through and how he survives is astonishing.
Shot in England, a lot of it at Cambridge at St. Johnís College (Hawking
actually attended Trinity Hall, but it was less suitable for filming),
the cinematography (BenoÓt Delhomme)
is exceptional and adds a lot to the film.
Redmayneís performance is extraordinary. He becomes Hawking in the way he
moves and communicates. It must have taken enormous energy, both
physical and emotional, to do this role. Jonesí performance doesnít
require the physical effort of Redmayneís but was arguably as difficult,
if not more, in that she captures the devoted love that Jane had in her
eyes and mannerisms. They both created tears in my eyes.
Jones is rapidly becoming one of my favorite actresses. She was
remarkable playing a teenager in Breathe In earlier this year
(even though she was 30 years old when she played the role), in which I
commented, ďHer subdued, seething sexiness and the slow way she attracts
the affection of Keith, her elder by some two decades at least, are what
really make this movie so fascinating.Ē Even though sheís no temptress
here, she represents the woman about whom every man dreams, beautiful,
kind, and caring.
This is not an easy film to watch, even though prospectively it seems
like watching someone progress through Lou Gehrigís disease might be
depressing. Itís not depressing, itís heart-lifting, but there are still
plenty of places that keep the tears coming, but they are tears of
admiration, not sadness. You just donít see this kind of love every day,
at least from Janeís end.
The only disappointment I had was that Marsh did not include archival
photos of the real Stephen and Jane below the end credits. The only way
I got to see the real Jane was when The Today Show did an interview with
Jones (who attended Oxford) and showed photos of Jane. Seeing her in
person added a lot to the movie for me.
Alas, after I left the screening I decided to do a little research and
discovered that truth is a long way from this fiction.
I discovered that the
film is based on Janeís second book, which is a revised version
of her first, Music to Move the Stars: A Life with Stephen Hawking,
containing 610 pages. Her first book tells the real story, that after
almost 30 years of devotion by Jane, during which she suppressed her
personal ambitions in order to care for him and during which she put up
with his selfish demands, he left her for another woman. She not only
had to do everything for Stephen, literally, but also raise their two
children. Hawking then fell for his nurse, Elaine Mason (Maxine Peake),
callously cast Jane aside in 1990, divorced her, married Elaine in 1995,
and was out of contact with Jane and his children for almost a decade.
Although the film does deal with the separation in a heartbreaking scene
for Jane, it takes pains to protect Stephen.
In her first book, Jane
says that, despite what is shown in this movie, during her almost thirty
year marriage all that kept her from suicide were her two children.
After Stephen divorced Elaine in 2006 most probably due to alleged
physical abuse by her, he resurrected his friendship with Jane and Jane
then issued her 450 page revised edition, upon which the film is based.
After learning the truth, the glow I felt for the film diminished
substantially, although not my affection for Jones and Jane.
For more info on the real Stephen Hawking and what Jane went through,
see The Other Side of Stephen Hawking: Strippers, Aliens, and
Disturbing Abuse Claims by Marlow Stern in The Daily Beast,
Brief History of a First Wife by Tim Adams in The
Observer, April 3, 2004, or read Janeís first book.
While this film warms the heart, I think the real story would have been
much more interesting.
November 4, 2014